The World Cries Wolf on U.S. Tariffs

When U.S. president Donald Trump announced sweeping new tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum Thursday, the world’s commentariat broke out in a frenzy of condemnation. Trump was accused of playing politics in a way that could “destabilize the global economy.” It was said that Trump’s actions could “bring global trade growth to a halt” (notwithstanding the fact that levels of global trade have already been declining since 2011). His critics screamed “trade war.” Canadian and European leaders immediately threatened retaliation. China didn’t, but American China experts predicted that Beijing soon would.

It is likely that few, if any, of these experts have read the two detailed Commerce Department reports that prompted the tariff decision, or the Defense Department memo endorsing their findings.

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