Sat, Mar 03, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Trump’s tariffs spark global ire, markets plunge


US President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a meeting with leaders from the steel and aluminum manufacturing industries in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington on Thursday.

Photo: EPA

Major steel and aluminum producing nations yesterday condemned US President Donald Trump’s plan to impose tariffs on the industry, as stock markets plunged on fears of an imminent tit-for-tat trade war.

After weeks of rumor about his administration’s intentions, Trump on Thursday announced he would sign off on measures designed to protect US producers “next week.”

The tariffs — 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — cover two materials that are the lifeblood of the construction and manufacturing sectors.

The announcement was greeted with fury within key US trading allies such as Canada, the EU, Australia and Mexico, as well as rival China.

It also caused jitters across global stock markets.

The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.7 percent on Thursday and Asian markets quickly followed suit, with Tokyo closing 2.5 percent down, Hong Kong falling 1.5 percent and the TAIEX dropping 0.81 percent in Taipei yesterday.

China, which has been in Trump’s crosshairs over its trade practices since his presidential campaign, urged the US to “exercise restraint in using trade protection tools and respect multilateral trade rules.”

“If all countries followed the example of the United States, there will undoubtedly result in a serious impact on the international trade order,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) told a regular news briefing.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU “will react firmly” to defend its interests.

“We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk,” Juncker said.

German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel called on the EU to respond “with determination,” terming the move from Washington “not at all acceptable” and urging Trump to rethink the announcement.

Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne responded even more bluntly.

“Any tariffs or quotas that would be imposed on our Canadian steel and aluminum industry would be unacceptable,” Champagne told parliament. “Any such decision would have an impact on both sides of the border.”

Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steve Ciobo said his biggest concern was “retaliatory measures” by other major economies.

“That’s in no one’s interests,” he told reporters.

Trump has long threatened to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum, accusing other nations of dumping and deploying “unfair” trade practices.

He has been particularly critical of China, although steel and aluminum each account for less than 1 percent of the nation’s total exports to the US.

The timing of Trump’s announcement was provocative for Beijing — its top economic envoy Liu He (劉鶴) was in Washington and holding meetings at the White House on Thursday.

“They candidly exchanged their views, building the necessary conditions for the next step in deepening cooperation,” Hua said of the meetings with US officials.

Sources familiar with Trump’s decision say he faced stern opposition from aides, including top economic adviser Gary Cohn, who argued the move could ultimately damage US industry.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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