Earlier this year, Trump celebrated the two-year anniversary of imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada. In March of 2018, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on imports of steel and 10 percent on aluminum, a move he claimed was necessary because the steel market was “in bad shape” even though over 70 percent of the steel being used in America was coming from American companies.
After receiving some backlash at the time for his Make 1800s Protectionism Great Again trade policies, Trump assured the American people that tariffs on Canada and trade wars were nothing to worry about because “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”
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. Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore-we win big. It’s easy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 2, 2018
Unfortunately, Trump lied and the economy died. His tariffs on Canada, China, and other trade partners proved the exact opposite because trade wars are never good, and they are rarely easy to win. Trump’s trade wars have created an economic hell that will take years to recover from — even more true after coronavirus hysteria and government’s tyrannical power grab.
Tariffs have historically done more harm than good, with higher prices to consumers and lost jobs being the usual result. Trump’s use of tariffs on Canada and other countries is no exception to the rule.
You would think that with the economy already on the skids prior to coronavirus and getting worse due to the so-called pandemic, Trump would consider some sort of course correction when it comes to tariffs on Canada, China, etc., especially with his sinking re-election prospects.
But this is Donald Trump we’re talking about here. This is the guy who brags about being responsible for single-handedly creating what he calls “the greatest economy in the history of America” — even though much of the good economic news he takes credit for began under Obama — so it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see him launch a new trade war against our neighbor to the north. It would be stupid, but totally expected from the man who claims to have “a very good brain.”
Guess what. Trump did just that.
Last Thursday evening, Trump announced — from the factory floor at a Whirlpool manufacturing plant in Ohio — that he was reimposing 10 percent tariffs on Canada on aluminum imported from the country. He did this after lifting the tariffs on Canada imposed in 2018 during last year’s negotiations on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the North American Free Trade Agreement replacement that ended up being little more than NAFTA 2.0. Trump kept most of NAFTA, but now it was rebranded with his name on it.
Despite the new trade deal, which took effect last month, Trump claimed without any evidence that new tariffs on Canada were necessary because “Canada was taking advantage of us, as usual.”
As reported by Reason.com, this latest move in Trump’s trade war damages much more than the U.S. economy. For example, one thing that should be obvious is that American aluminum-consuming industries will once again be punished by his trade policies.
Tariffs on Canada “will place greater financial hardship on U.S. vehicle parts manufacturers at a time when the industry is trying to recover from plant shutdowns and a declining economy,” said Bill Long, president and CEO of the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, in a statement issued Thursday.
In deciding to reimpose tariffs on Canadian aluminum, the Trump administration “failed to listen to the vast majority of domestic aluminum companies and users,” said Tom Dobbins, president & CEO of the Aluminum Association, in a statement yesterday. And that’s the reaction from the industry that Trump’s measure is supposed to be helping.
Politically, tariffs on Canada don’t make much sense either. At the very least, Thursday’s announcement undermines one of Trump’s biggest accomplishments on the trade front: the USMCA. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Twitter that his government would immediately retaliate.
In response to the American tariffs announced today, Canada will impose countermeasures that will include dollar-for-dollar retaliatory tariffs. We will always stand up for our aluminum workers. We did so in 2018 and we will stand up for them again now. https://t.co/gYH0ziOVM4
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 6, 2020
This abrupt turn against a close ally and major trading partner with whom the U.S. had just signed a major trade deal signals to the rest of the world that Trump’s deals aren’t to be trusted.
“If the U.S. walks back on its trade commitments, how can it criticize China for doing the same?” The Wall Street Journal editorial board opined. “The aluminum tariff is Mr. Trump at his policy worst: He hurts U.S. industry and consumers, while telling America’s friends that his word on trade can’t be trusted.”
Indeed, it’s difficult to find any logical explanation for why Trump would pursue a policy that will increase costs for American consumers and businesses in the middle of a major economic downturn.
I was never all that impressed with Trump’s track record of so-called business success. Beginning with a family inheritance and a $1 million loan from his wealthy father, Trump “succeeded” by having more business failures than successes — including four bankruptcies — while achieving the self-proclaimed status as “the king of debt.”
Still, during the 2016 GOP primaries, we were repeatedly reminded by the Trump cult that, as a “successful” businessman, the New York liberal was the person America needed to “fix” an economy recovering from the financial meltdown of 2008. And we were promised he would run America like he runs his businesses.
Unfortunately for America, he did that last part.
David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.