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Trump goes on 1-day trade warpath against US allies

1 week ago
The president started by announcing steel tariffs on Brazil and Argentina. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump released a clutch of protectionist trade actions on Monday aimed at long-time US allies, including some countries that have been close to the Trump administration.

The president started by announcing on steel from Brazil and Argentina in a tweet, citing US farmers who he said were being hurt by a “massive devaluation” of those countries’ currencies. Brazil and Argentina are both big exporters of agricultural products.

Chinese companies have slashed their purchases of US farm goods since the United States started its trade war with China 17 months ago. Both Brazil and Argentina have been trying to strengthen their currencies, despite Trump’s claim.

An Argentinian minister called the tariffs “unexpected”. Brazil’s main steel lobby said it was “perplexed”. The move could drive Brazil to tighter trade ties with China, analysts said.

Then the United States Trade Representative said it would review hiking tariffs on European Union products and adding new ones, because of what it called “lack of progress” in resolving a dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The USTR said a decision by the World Trade Organization on Monday affirmed the US position that European subsidies to planemaker Airbus continue to harm the US aerospace industry. It did not provide specifics on what tariffs it might hike over the long-running dispute.

Finally, after the US markets closed, the USTR said it planned to increase taxes on US$2.4 billion in French products including champagne and handbags by 100%, after determining that France’s new digital services tax would harm US companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Apple Inc.

The USTR said the government was also exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.

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