At The Wall Street Journal, Jacob M. Schlesinger and Rebecca Ballhaus outline President Trump’s global tariffs on steel and aluminum. They write:
President Donald Trump kicked his “America First” trade policy into high gear Thursday, launching global tariffs on steel and aluminum, while signaling even more aggressive pressure on trading partners to come, especially against China.
In announcing the measures, the president outlined his broader trade agenda, including rewriting existing U.S. pacts and a continuing sweeping investigation of Chinese trade practices, issuing a veiled threat that even bigger penalties are looming against Beijing. “We’re going to cut down the deficits [with China] one way or the other,” he said.
For advocates of the longstanding U.S. support for free trade and globalization—a consensus of leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties that Mr. Trump seeks to upend—Thursday marked a symbolic turning point.
“I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
The tariff policy was also highly contentious inside Mr. Trump’s own administration, pitting economic nationalists like White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross —the chief architects of the policies—against free-trade advocates, notably White House National Economic Council director Gary Cohn.
One person fighting for the country exclusions (Canada and Mexico) was Mr. Cohn, who opposes the tariffs and tendered his resignation after he was excluded from meetings last week when the president decided to move forward with the import curbs.
Both Canada and Mexico would be exempt from the outset, though their continued exemption would be contingent on the outcome of ongoing negotiations to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mr. Trump said his policies are already resuscitating the hard-hit steel industry, citing an announcement Wednesday by United States Steel Corp. that it will restart a blast furnace in Illinois and call back to work 500 employees.
In signing the tariffs, Mr. Trump is carrying out one of his core campaign promises, first unveiled in Pennsylvania steel country in June 2016. His vows to leverage trade policy to protect American workers contributed to his surprise victory in the industrial Midwest, and he has regularly credited it with winning him the White House.
“This is a promise I made during the campaign,” the president said in making the announcement. He said that was a reason he ran, and won. “Part of the reason it happened was you,” he said to the workers surrounding him. He revived some of his darkest campaign rhetoric about “factories left to rot and rust all over the place,” their communities “turned into ghost-towns.” He turned to the workers and said “you guys know that, right.”
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