With temporary exemptions due to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, President Trump on Monday postponed a decision on imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada, Mexico, and the European Union until June 1, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters.
This person also said the Trump administration has "reached agreements in principle with Argentina, Australia, and Brazil, details of which will be finalized in the next 30 days." In March, Trump imposed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on aluminum, but several countries received temporary exemptions and South Korea was given a permanent exemption to steel tariffs, in exchange for agreeing to cut its exports to the U.S. by about 30 percent.
Canada is the largest source of steel imports into the U.S., and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday if the U.S. made a move to impose tariffs on his country's steel and aluminum it would be a "very bad idea." Catherine Garcia
The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Tuesday proposed imposing 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports.
"This level is appropriate both in light of the estimated harm to the U.S. economy, and to obtain elimination of China's harmful acts, policies, and practices," the office said in its report. The 1,300 products targeted include lithium batteries, dishwashers, semiconductors, and flame throwers. The Chinese Commerce Ministry responded by saying it will soon announce countermeasures to any tariffs.
President Trump has accused China of stealing the intellectual property of American companies; the tariffs are China's punishment. The public can comment on the proposal through May 11. Catherine Garcia
As President Trump prepares to announce Thursday his plans to impose at least $30 billion in tariffs against China, countertariffs are being drafted overseas to specifically hurt states that helped buoy the president to his win in 2016, The Wall Street Journal reports. Focusing on the Farm Belt, China's tariffs could target American soybean, sorghum, and live hog exports, with Chinese companies preparing to turn to Brazil, Argentina, and Poland to meet their supply needs.
"The challenge for any president in tariffs is to ensure that ultimately you don't punish Americans for China's misbehavior," explained Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas).
Trump's tariff push comes in response to complaints by American companies that say Chinese companies force them into partnerships in order to obtain their technology, and that Chinese companies receive government money to steal tech secrets. The tariffs would additionally serve as retaliation for Chinese cyber attacks. CNN concluded: "The [Trump] administration's diagnosis is correct, economists say. The remedy is where people differ."
American farmers, for one, are sounding the alarm: "Bottom line, we're terrified," Zaner Group market strategist Brian Grossman, a former North Dakota farmer, told The Wall Street Journal. "It's not going to be good for the American farmer." Jeva Lange
Despite politicians in his own party, like House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calling on him to ditch his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum, President Trump said Monday he's "not backing down."
Last week, Trump surprised everyone by announcing he planned on implementing a 25 percent tax on steel imports and a 10 percent tax on aluminum imports. On Monday, Ryan released a statement saying he was "extremely worried about the consequences" of such a move, and his spokeswoman said there were concerns this would launch a "trade war," with Ryan "urging the White House to not advance with this plan."
A Canadian government official told Reuters that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called Trump on Monday, letting him know that if he imposed tariffs, it would be a roadblock in ongoing talks on updating NAFTA. Canada is the largest supplier of aluminum and steel to the U.S., and the official said during the call, Trudeau "forcefully defended" his country's workers and industries. Trump was not swayed by Ryan's concern or his conversation with Trudeau; in a meeting at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump said, "We're not backing down. I don't think you're going to have a trade war." Catherine Garcia
Trump's pal Carl Icahn dropped almost a million shares of a steel-dependent company days before tariff talk began
A week before President Trump announced his intention to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports, his longtime confidant and one-time adviser Carl Icahn had already cut almost 1 million shares of Wisconsin-based crane manufacturer Manitowoc Company Inc., ThinkProgress reports. The timing of Icahn's $31.3 million dump is suspect, because Manitowoc is a heavily steel-dependent company.
"Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross publicly released a report on Feb. 16 calling for a 24 percent tariff," notes ThinkProgress. "But, as the chart in the [Securities and Exchange Commission] filing indicates, Icahn started selling his Manitowoc stock on Feb. 12, prior to the public release of that report." Icahn made the SEC filing on Feb. 22.
At the time Icahn began selling off the Manitowoc stock, it was worth $32 to $34 per share. "Although the stock's up 22.4 percent in the last year, shares are down 19.5 percent over the last month," wrote Seeking Alpha in an article pondering "Why Carl Icahn Just Cut His Manitowoc Stake by 33 Percent," published Feb. 28. For comparison, after Trump's tariff announcement, Manitowoc stock was trading Friday afternoon around $26 or $27 per share. Read more about Icahn's sale at ThinkProgress. Jeva Lange
President Trump declared Thursday morning that "we must not let our country, companies, and workers be taken advantage of any longer," indicating that a rumored announcement about new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports looks like it's a go this afternoon.
Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2018
Just hours before, administration officials were reportedly "engaged in a fierce debate … about whether to make the announcement Thursday — or delay it altogether," Politico writes. The tariffs have split the administration into two camps: National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary James Mattis are among those who have expressed opposition to the tariffs. Trump has remained in unwavering favor of implementing them, along with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro, and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 4, 2017
Although there are a number of options on the table, a person familiar with Trump's thinking told Politico that the president likes the sound of a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. Still, "tariffs can be challenged by other countries through a legal process, and many GOP lawmakers have warned the White House that [Trump] could trigger a trade war if this isn't properly vetted," The Washington Post writes.
President Trump on Monday, acting on recommendations by the U.S. International Trade Commission, approved steep new tariffs on solar panels and washing machines.
The Trump administration says that by placing a tariff of 30 percent on most imported solar modules and a tariff of up to 50 percent on large residential washing machines, this will help American companies. Both tariffs will be phased out by 2022.
Whirlpool is pleased with the news, with its chairman saying it will create manufacturing jobs, but Bill Vietas, a member of the Solar Energy Industries Association and president of RBI Solar in Cincinnati, said the tariffs will hurt his industry, which has grown immensely over the past five years. "Government tariffs will increase the cost of solar and depress demand, which will reduce the orders we're getting and cost manufacturing workers their jobs," he told The Associated Press. Catherine Garcia