Trump to meet on tariffs as China issues warning

TRADE WAR::China led a group of 18 WTO members urging the US to scrap the tariffs, which it said pose a systemic threat to the rules-based global trading system


Fri, Mar 09, 2018 - Page 1

US President Donald Trump yesterday said he would hold an afternoon meeting on the steel and aluminum industries, while China warned that everyone would be harmed if Trump launches a trade war as official figures showed that the Asian nation maintained a robust trade surplus with the US.

“Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House. We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military,” Trump tweeted.

The president did not say whether he would sign tariffs on steel and aluminum imports at the meeting.

Earlier, the White House said that Mexico, Canada and other nations might be spared from Trump’s planned steel and aluminum tariffs under national security “carve-outs,” a move that could soften the blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners, and dire economic warnings from lawmakers and business groups.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the exemptions would be made on a “case by case” and “country by country” basis, a reversal from the policy articulated by the White House just days ago that there would be no exemptions from Trump’s plan.

The update came as congressional Republicans and business groups braced for the impact of expected tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

“We urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the US economy and its workers,” 107 Republican lawmakers wrote in a letter to Trump.

At the White House, officials were working to include language in the tariffs that would give Trump the flexibility to approve exemptions for certain nations.

“He’s already indicated a degree of flexibility, I think a very sensible, very balanced degree of flexibility,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross told CNBC. “We’re not trying to blow up the world.”

Trump also signaled other trade actions could be in the works.

In a tweet, he said the “U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft.”

A White House official said Trump was referencing an ongoing investigation of China in which the US trade representative is studying whether Chinese intellectual property rules are “unreasonable or discriminatory” to US business.

Meanwhile, Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) issued the stern message to the Trump administration.

“Choosing a trade war is surely the wrong prescription, in the end you will only hurt others and yourself,” Wang said.

“China will certainly make an appropriate and necessary response,” Wang said at a news conference on the sidelines of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

On Wednesday, at the WTO, China led a group of 18 members urging Trump to scrap the planned tariffs, with its representative saying the levies would pose a systemic threat to the rules-based global trading system.

US imports from China of steel and aluminum make up a small proportion of its total imports from the world’s second-largest economy, but the tariffs might be the first foray in the brewing US trade war with Beijing.

Trump took to Twitter to say the US had asked China to “develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States.”

“We look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!” Trump wrote.

While Beijing has fired warning shots — such as trade investigations into US goods such as sorghum and hinted it could even take on soybeans, its largest US import — officials have also worked to find a peaceful resolution.

“The lessons of history show engaging in a trade war is never the right way to resolve problems,” Wang said.