‘High level of concern’ amongst Republicans about proposed steel tariffs

Donald Trump’s surprise move risks interfering with economy, says Mitch McConnell

Donald Trump took markets and many of his own advisers by surprise last week by announcing plans to impose a tariff of 25 per cent on steel imports and a 10 per cent charge on aluminium entering the country. Photograph: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump took markets and many of his own advisers by surprise last week by announcing plans to impose a tariff of 25 per cent on steel imports and a 10 per cent charge on aluminium entering the country. Photograph: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

 

Resistance to the US president Donald Trump’s pledge to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports gathered pace on Tuesday, as senior Republicans voiced concerns about the impact of the proposed measures.

Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said there was a “high level of concern” among his party about “interfering with an economy that appears to be taking off”, as he pledged to attain more detail from the White House about the planned tariffs.

But the president last night doubled-down on his promises on trade.

“The United States has been taken advantage of by other countries.. for many many decades. We have a trade deficit of $800 billion a year. That’s not going to happen with me,” he said at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven in the White House, adding: “I don’t blame the countries, I blame our leadership for allowing it to happen.”

Singling out the European Union who he said “had not treated us well,”

Mr Trump took markets and many of his own advisers by surprise last week by announcing plans to impose a tariff of 25 per cent on steel imports and a 10 per cent charge on aluminium entering the country. His comments were delivered in an impromptu press conference in the White House after a meeting with more than a dozen steel and aluminium chief executives.

The White House has yet to confirm when the measures may be officially announced. Though further detail had been expected to be revealed this week, a signing ceremony has not yet been scheduled.

Speaking on Tuesday, house speaker Paul Ryan reiterated his scepticism about the plan, suggesting that the administration could focus its actions on certain countries.

“What we’re encouraging the administration to do is to focus on what is clearly a legitimate problem and to be more surgical in its approach so that we can go after the true abusers without creating any unintended consequences or collateral damage,” he said.

Trade war

While China is in Mr Trump’s sights, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Germany are among the top steel exporters to the US.

Other Republicans are worried about the impact of a potential trade war on American consumers – and voters.

“I don’t see winners in trade wars,” said House Republican Jeb Hensarling in a tv interview. “We’ve got, you know, 300 million people who consume steel and aluminium. I mean, is this going to send up the price of a six-pack [of beer] at a grocery store?”

Washington has indicated that if China and Mexico yield to their demands in the ongoing talks on renegotiating Nafta – the pact that covers trade between the three countries – then they may be exempted from the tariffs.

But Mexico and Canada have hit back at the US, warning that they will retaliate with their own trade measures. Mexico said it rejected what it sees as a bid by Washington to drive a wedge between it and Canada in talks to renegotiate Nafta.

The European Union has also pledged to respond to any trade tariffs, potentially targeting US goods such as Harley-Davidson motorbikes and Levi jeans, though such measures may be in breach of WTO rules.