The growing threat of global trade war


The growing threat of global trade war

Nick Beams

24 February 2018

Aggressive moves by the Trump administration in pursuit of its economic nationalist “America First” agenda are bringing the world close to trade war—a conflict with significant military implications.

Two major initiatives by the US administration over the past month have ratcheted up global tensions, bringing the threat of retaliatory actions from the European Union and China.

In late January, the US slapped major tariffs on the imports of solar panels and washing machines directed against China and also South Korea.

This was followed by the recommendation earlier this month from commerce secretary Wilbur Ross that tariffs and other restrictive measures be introduced against the imports of steel and aluminium. The Ross recommendation was the outcome of a lengthy investigation conducted under section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act which allows restrictions on imports to be imposed by the president on the grounds of “national security”, a provision sometimes described as the “nuclear option” in trade relations.

The report said the increase in the imports of both metals in recent years “threaten to impair our national security” and Ross has sent the report to Trump with a range of options for restrictions, including a 24 percent global tariff on steel and a 7.7 percent tariff on aluminium, for action by April.

The militaristic overtones of the trade measures were underscored by Trump in his remarks to members of Congress last week when he said that while he wanted to keep prices down, steel and aluminium were needed for national defence and “if we ever have a conflict I don’t want to the buying steel [from] a country we are fighting.”

The move against solar panels and washing…

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