On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it’s pursuing World Trade Organization complaints against a group of countries that are retaliating against tariffs imposed on them by the White House with tariffs against the United States.
In short, the administration’s position is that tariffs it imposed against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico, and Turkey are justified, but retaliation against them are not.
An administration statement announcing the complaint notes that “U.S. steel and aluminum duties imposed by President Trump earlier this year are justified under international agreements the United States and its trading partners have approved. However, retaliatory duties on U.S. exports imposed by China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Turkey are completely without justification under international rules.”
holy smokes, USTR just filed a WTO case against five governments for retaliating against the steel and aluminum duties. it’s already been sued over those duties 8 different times, and this pushes the whole affair fully into the absurd. pic.twitter.com/G8ph9wPhY5
— Alex Lawson (@AlexxLawson) July 16, 2018
The statement, which doesn’t attempt to explain the administration’s obviously flawed logic, echoes what Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo during an interview late last month.
“The president was very clear he wanted to protect the steel and aluminum industry that are critical to the U.S.,” Mnuchin said. “And I think it’s very unfair — we put tariffs on, okay, that were very specifically designed. We’ve been very careful, we’ve put quotas on certain countries, we’ve been very careful in negotiating deals, we’ve negotiated a lot of deals.”
“I think it’s it is very unfair that the EU has responded with tariffs on other things,” Mnuchin continued. “And they have done that and it is politically motivated, and if they object to our steel tariffs, that’s something they should go through WTO and others, but they do not have the right to respond in a political fashion and hurt our farmers and our critical other areas.”
But even Republican senators aren’t so sure that Trump’s tariffs are justified. Last week, an overwhelming majority of senators in the GOP-controlled Senate approved a non-binding resolution denouncing Trump’s rationale for imposing steel and aluminum tariffs against Mexico, Canada, and the EU — that those countries somehow represent a national security risk to the U.S.
Last month, Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau criticized Trump’s rationale by pointing out that Canadian troops fought and died with Americans in Afghanistan.
“One of the things that I have to admit I’m having a lot of trouble getting around is the idea that this entire thing is coming about because the president and the administration have decided that Canada and Canadian steel and aluminum is a national security threat to the United States,” he said. “The idea that our soldiers who have fought and died together in the mountains of Afghanistan and stood shoulder to shoulder — somehow this is insulting to them.”