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Tariff Move Could Make Autos, Beer More Expensive

Trump remains defiant amid criticism and fears of a trade war
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2018 8:35 AM CST

(Newser) – President Trump's announcement that he plans to impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and 10% on aluminum is reverberating not just in the US but around the world in the form of jittery stock markets and worries about a trade war. A look at what's going on:

  • Beer, autos: In theory, the move could make things such as beer, autos, and even baseball bats—essentially, anything made with the metals—more expensive, reports CNN. But as the Upshot blog of the New York Times explains, how much of a price increase is unclear. "If your favorite beer producers are looking at paying an extra fraction of a cent for each aluminum can, they might just take on the cost themselves, they might raise prices, or they might split the difference."
  • Biggest suppliers: Brazil, Canada, and South Korea supplied the most steel to the US last year, while Canada, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates were the leaders in aluminum in 2016, per CNBC. One economist warned of "surgical strikes" in retaliation, meaning counter-tariffs on specific products.

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  • Defiant: In a Friday morning tweet, Trump defended his decision. "We must protect our country and our workers. Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!" He added, "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win."
  • But wiggle room? Many Republicans came out strongly against the decision, including Sens. Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts, in part because they're worried about how other nations will retaliate, reports the Hill. The story notes that when asked whether the president would stick to a 25% tariff on steel, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to hedge. "I think that's the intent," she said.
  • China, others: Beijing on Friday expressed "grave concern," though China did not spell out any retaliatory steps, reports the Guardian. Canada, Australia, Japan, the European Union, and other US allies also voiced opposition and warned of reciprocation, and the Wall Street Journal has details. One big wild card: Trump won't formalize the move until next week, and he could yet exempt some nations.

  • Trump, unplugged: At Axios, Jonathan Swan and Mike Allen write that Trump announced the tariffs over the objections of many of his own staffers, especially economic adviser Gary Cohn. "Senior officials and staff kept slow-walking him. Trump wanted what he wanted. And when they didn’t give it to him, he finally exploded." The post suggests the president is fed up with being held back by chief of staff John Kelly and others and will increasingly play by his own rules.
  • From the right: The conservative editorial page of the Wall Street Journal sees this as "Trump's Tariff Folly," warning that the move will hurt the US economy and Trump supporters in particular. The editorial urges Trump to reconsider before next week. "Mr. Trump seems not to understand that steel-using industries in the US employ some 6.5 million Americans, while steel makers employ about 140,000."
  • In praise: Trump is in the odd position of earning praise from some Democrats. "This welcome action is long overdue for shuttered steel plants across Ohio and steelworkers who live in fear that their jobs will be the next victims of Chinese cheating," said Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, per the Washington Post. "If we fail to stand up for steel jobs today, China will come after other jobs up and down the supply chain tomorrow."
(Read more tariffs stories.)

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