Trump says ‘trade wars aren’t so bad,’ he’ll run this one in ‘a loving, loving way’
The U.S. president is not budging on his steel and aluminum tariffs, even under intense pressure from around the world and from his own party.
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WASHINGTON—U.S. President Donald Trump was asked how he can avoid his tariffs on steel and aluminum turning into a trade war.
He said “trade wars aren’t so bad,” since the U.S. has a trade deficit. And then he said he is going to get tough on trade “in a very loving way.”
“We’re going to straighten it out,” Trump said at a White House news conference on Tuesday afternoon, referring again to trade deficits. “And we’ll do it in a very loving way. It’ll be a loving, loving way. They’ll love us better. And they’ll respect us much more.”
He did not explain what he meant. But his message was clear: he was not budging from the tariffs he announced last week, even under intense pressure from around the world and from his own party.
Trump is being urged by many Republicans to immediately exempt Canada from the tariffs, which he said would be 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum. On Tuesday, though, he repeated what he said in a tweet on Monday: Canada and Mexico would only get an exemption once the North American Free Trade Agreement is successfully renegotiated.
“We’re working on NAFTA right now. And if we’re able to make a deal with Canada and Mexico in NAFTA, then there will be no reason to do the tariffs with Canada and Mexico,” he said.
That statement appears to undermine his official rationale for the tariffs. They are being imposed on the grounds that steel and aluminum imports threaten to harm U.S. national security. With regard to Canada and Mexico, however, he is tying the tariffs to an economic issue, the state of the overall North American trade relationship.
Trump again described trade as a zero-sum game in which one country wins and one country loses. When the U.S. has a trade deficit with a country, he said, “The trade war hurts them. It doesn’t hurt us.” His argument is widely rejected by economists, who say that an escalating tariff battle would likely increase the price of products purchased by Americans, cost American jobs in industries that export, and slow down overall growth.
Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed concern about the tariffs on Tuesday. Ryan asked Trump to take a “more surgical approach.” McConnell said “there is a lot of concern among Republican senators that this could metastasize into a larger trade war.”
On Monday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Trump in a phone call to exempt Canada from the tariffs. And at the news conference on Tuesday, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, standing beside Trump, said, “Increased tariffs will hurt all of us in the long run.”
But Trump simply reiterated his previous position that the steel and aluminum industries have been victimized by unfair trade practices and need protection.
“We cannot lose our steel industry. It’s a fraction of what it once was. And we can’t lose our aluminum industry. Also a fraction of what it once was,” he said.
He repeated a variety of his usual false economic claims — falsely saying Black and Hispanic unemployment are at their lowest levels ever, that the U.S. has trade deficits with “every single country,” and that the overall trade deficit is $800 billion (it was $566 billion last year including trade in services).