Washington, March 2 (PTI): US President Donald Trump has said that he would impose a 25 per cent import tariff on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium to protect US producers, a move that could trigger a trade war with China and Europe.
An executive order in this regard would be signed next week, Trump said after a meeting with executives of steel and aluminium companies on Thursday.
“It’ll be for a long period of time…And you’ll have protection for a long time in a while. You’ll have to regrow your industries, that’s all I’m asking,” Trump said in the presence of a pool of reporters.
Trump said the import tariff hike would create jobs in the US and benefit its industries.
He said the people representing the US had “destroyed” the steel industry, aluminium industry, and other industries.
“Frankly, when you look at all the plants, the car plants, automobile plants that moved down to Mexico for no reason whatsoever, except we didn’t know what we were doing,” Trump said.
“We’re going to build our steel industry back and we’re going to build our aluminium industry back,” he said.
His announcement was welcomed by the domestic steel and aluminium industry and several lawmakers, but drew sharp reaction from other quarters who felt that this would have a detrimental impact on the American economy.
The Wall Street Journal said that such a move by Trump has “sparked worries” of a looming global trade war.
Dow Jones Industrial average dropped by 400 points after Trump’s announcement.
China, which ranks 11 among the largest sources of US steel imports, however, asked the United States to “exercise restraint in using trade protection tools”.
“If all countries follow the example of the US, this will undoubtedly result in a serious impact on the international trade order,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters on Friday in Beijing.
The European Steel Association accused the US of choosing to spark a “global trade confrontation”. It predicted that the European Union steel exports to the US will be slashed by an estimated 50 per cent or more after the Trump’s latest move.
In a statement in Brussels, the European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said that the EU “will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests” in response to tough US steel and aluminium tariffs.
Congressman Mike Bost, co-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, said he is very encouraged by Trump’s “critically important” decision.
“The domestic industry has suffered greatly at the hands of global steel overcapacity and unfair trade, which threatens US national security interests,” said Bost.
“Today’s announcement is a bold step forward to stop unfair trade practices so American steel-workers can continue to make American steel that supports our military, critical infrastructure, and the livelihoods of American families,” he said.
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown called the import tariff hike “a decision which was long overdue”.
“President Trump must follow through on his commitment to save American steel jobs and stop Chinese steel overcapacity from continuing to infect global markets,” said Brown.
However, Republican Senator from Utah, Mike Lee claimed the proposed tariffs would be a huge job-killing tax hike on American consumers.
“While I am sympathetic to the issues facing domestic steel manufacturers, there must be a better way to address the steel industries concerns, and I hope Congress and the executive branch can identify an alternative solution before these tariffs are finalised next week,” he said.
Another Republican Congressman Pete Olson expressed concern over Trump’s decision on proposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.
“We must tread carefully when imposing tariffs of this size as they often have unintended consequences on American businesses,” he said.
Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden said the American steel industry has been “under pressure” for decades from “unfairly” traded products from China and elsewhere.
“Until the details are known, however, it is too soon to tell whether the measures announced today will end China’s overcapacity and bring back good paying American jobs or simply provide a short-term boost to corporate profits,” he said.