Trump: Tariffs against steel, aluminum importers could start next week

China 24

For years, Washington has blamed foreign importers of dumping cheap metals into the U.S. The finger has often been pointed at China. U.S. President Donald Trump said the practice has decimated American industry.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

On Thursday, surrounded by executives at the White House, Trump laid out his plan for fighting back. It starts, he said, with tariffs.

“It’ll be 25 percent for steel,” Trump said. “It’ll be 10 percent for aluminum. And it’ll be for a long period of time.”

The move was welcomed by Trump’s guests.

“We are not protectionists,” Dave Burritt, Chief Executive Officer of United States Steel Corporation. “We want a level playing field. It’s for our employees, to support our customers. And when we get this right, it will be great for the United States of America.”

U.S. defense officials have long argued that America’s inability to competitively produce steel (for U.S. ships and aircrafts) is a matter of national security. Last month, the U.S. Commerce Department came to the same conclusion, opening the door for Thursday’s action.

Trump tariffs are global. That means they’ll potentially target key defense allies, including South Korea and Canada. Both of these countries import much more steel into the U.S. than China.

Canada’s trade minister called the move “unacceptable.” The EU’s Jean-Claude Juncker warned that Brussels will “react firmly” with countermeasures.

Trump’s announcement comes just 24 hours after the U.S. said it was considering similar moves on imports of aluminum foil, and about $400 million is imported annually. That announcement prompted a strong response from Beijing.

“The irrational overuse of trade remedy measures by the U.S. is not only unhelpful for rejuvenation of its relevant industry but will harm the state’s employment and interest of the U.S. customers,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “In response to this erroneous action by the U.S., we will take necessary measures to safeguard our legitimate rights and interests.”

The announcement comes as Liu He, China’s top economic adviser, continued a series of meetings in Washington. On Thursday, as Trump spelled out his tariff plan, Liu was due to meet with White House officials. The hope was that he would defuse trade tensions between China and the U.S.

Critics said that in jumping straight to tariffs, the U.S. has bypassed the World Trade Organization’s dispute mechanism: the very body it helped set-up. Some warn the move may set a bad precedent for others countries to claim ‘national security’ in protecting their own key industries moving forward.

Dali Yang talks about the impact of US tariffs on steel and aluminum

CGTN’s Elaine Reyes talks with Dali Yang, professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago, about the impact of U.S. tariffs on imported aluminum and steel.