In his expanding war over global trade, US President Donald Trump has aimed his harshest rhetoric at an unlikely target – his country’s closest allies.
In Twitter posts while at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Saturday, Trump vowed to strike back at European leaders who said they would retaliate for his promised tariffs on aluminium and steel.
Bring it on, Trump warned.
“If the EU wants to further increase their already massive tariffs and barriers on US companies doing business there, we will simply apply a Tax on their Cars which freely pour into the US They make it impossible for our cars (and more) to sell there. Big trade imbalance!” he tweeted.
The country that escaped Trump’s tweeting ire was China, the very nation the president has wanted to hit hardest and the one that is largely responsible for flooding global markets with cheap steel.
In return, China, which provides just 2 per cent of US steel imports, warned Sunday that it was ready to hit back if the United States damaged its economic interests
“China doesn’t want a trade war with the United States,” Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress, told a news conference, the eve of the rubber-stamp parliament’s annual session.
“But if the US takes actions that hurt Chinese interests, China will not sit idly by,” Zhang said. An official English-language interpreter added the phrase, “and will take necessary measures”.
On Thursday, Trump said the United States would apply duties of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium to protect domestic producers.
The biggest burden of Trump’s new tariffs would be borne by Canada, the largest trading partner with the United States.
Canada is the largest exporter of steel and aluminium to the United States, supplying US$7.2 billion of aluminium and US$4.3 billion of steel to the United States last year.
Yet in goods and services, the United States runs a trade surplus with Canada, which buys US$48 billion worth of US automobiles and US$40 billion of machinery, in addition to agricultural products.