Trump deepens the sense of crisis in the West

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We are now on the verge of a trade war between the United States and its allies . The Trump administration confirmed this week that will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the European Union, Canada and Mexico. The measures were announced at the beginning of the year, but the neighbors of the United States and the US. – all vital diplomatic partners – had received temporary exemptions while negotiators sought a compromise that would reduce import levels and dissipate White House complaints about trade deficits.

But on Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made it clear that the talks did not work. Tariffs of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum were expected to take effect at midnight.

The response was quick and scathing. All the affected parties promised to apply their own retaliation rates to US products. "This is a bad day for world trade," said Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. Announced that the E.U. "The Mexican government said it would target US exports of pork bellies, apples, cranberries, grapes, certain cheeses and various types of steel." Canada said it would apply dollar-for-dollar tariffs on a range of US products, including whiskey and orange juice. And the European Union said it would impose taxes on about $ 7 billion in US exports, including bourbon, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and jeans.

The White House received a significant amount of domestic flak, too. Both the steel industry and the iron and steel workers' unions denounced the tariffs. Other manufacturers were no less concerned: a study suggests that tariffs could kill up to 40,000 jobs in the automotive industry alone.

Republican politicians, at least those who still invest in the defense of free trade, badyzed the decision. "This is silly, Europe, Canada and Mexico are not China, and allies are not treated the same way opponents are treated," said Senator Ben Sbade (R-Neb.). "We've come this way before: general protectionism is a big part of why the United States had a Great Depression." Make America Great Again "should not mean" Make America 1929 Again. " "

But that motto seems increasingly apt. "The president seems to keep his promises to put the United States first, in a strange and damaging way," Paul Musgrave, a political scientist at the University of Mbadachusetts Amherst, told Vox. "Since the campaign, he made it clear that he sees the allies as candidates and wants to renegotiate the liberal commercial order after the Second World War to put the screws in. It is an insensitive and extortionate vision."

The Trump administration forced the measures invoking national security, which gives the president more executive authority to impose these duties. When considering its transatlantic partners as potential threats, argued Ed Luce of the Financial Times, it is consenting to a nationalist base and "replacing a system of rules with political whim".

Luce continues: "Launching a simultaneous trade war against the United States, the allies and adversaries do not comply with the international rules of known logic: they will raise domestic prices, reduce jobs in the United States and reduce the global influence of the United States." . But this is not an accidental project. Luce noted that Trump's chief trade negotiator, Robert E. Lighthizer, "has long taken care of a complaint" against the WTO and will probably keep in touch with his technocrats in the coming months, giving Trump another foreign shock on which to support.

European officials, Trump's behavior is irritating, but it is no longer surprising . The German and French appeals could not save the nuclear agreement with Iran or deter Trump from withdrawing from the Paris climate agreements. Instead of giving NATO its traditional backing, Trump has especially laughed at European military budgets. And he has been an active activist against free trade, eager to be seen as the world leader who is against the tide of globalization.

It's a bad day for world trade. The United States leaves us no choice but to proceed with a WTO dispute settlement case and the imposition of additional duties on a number of US imports. We will defend the interests of the EU, in full compliance with international trade law.

– Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) May 31, 2018

So, if Juncker complains that the tariffs are "protectionism, pure and simple," that will not bother the White House. "But the damage caused to the relationship with Europe can be real, far-reaching and possibly even counterproductive for Trump, if he wants to win his biggest commercial battle. with China, it will need the support of the allies that it is now turning into enemies, instead, it may be pressuring Brussels to approach Beijing.

"Thursday's action is expected to complicate US efforts. UU To confront China with business practices that the administration considers unfair, "my colleagues reported." The EU shares many of Washington's concerns about China's efforts to acquire advanced technology through compulsory licensing practices, cyber-bullying and other measures. But European officials are increasingly irritated by Trump's aggressive use of obscure provisions in US trade laws against United States allies. "

The crack comes at a difficult time. and Spain will test the strength of the continental bloc and the integrity of its single currency, populist factions in several countries are challenging the liberal values ​​that once based the European project and the transatlantic alliance.

The White House is playing a key role in the deepening of that challenge, as well as the sense of crisis that afflicts the West has found a common cause with anti-liberal governments in Poland and Hungary that turn out to be the bêtes noires of Brussels. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto was in Washington this week, praising the growing commercial ties while mocking Western European leaders for their opposition to aspects of Trump's foreign policy. "Hungary will not join the European chorus that has now taken to criticizing the United States," said Szijjarto.

Canadian tariffs on Canadian aluminum and steel are unacceptable. As we have said, we will always defend our workers, and today we announce measures of retaliation for this attack on our industry.

– Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) May 31, 2018

Meanwhile, the traditional partners of the United States are now in a strange place, forced to face a friend as an enemy.

"The Americans are still our partners, our allies and our friends, it's not about the American people," said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking almost on the same record as a US diplomat who confronts an authoritarian adversary. "We have to believe that common sense will prevail at some point, but we do not see signs of that in this action today by the United States administration."

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