Mexico, Canada, and Europe wasted little time in vowing to take retaliatory actions for new tariffs levied by President Donald Trump on steel and aluminum products imported into the U.S., as the Canadian Prime Minister promised to impose “dollar for dollar” tariffs on American products sent to Canada, while Mexico targeted U.S. farm products, and European leaders vowed to challenge the new tariffs before the World Trade Organization.
“Let me be clear, these tariffs are totally unacceptable,” said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“These tariffs are an affront to the long-standing security partnership between Canada and the United States, and in particular, an affront to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside their American brothers in arms,” the Prime Minister said.
“This is not about the American people,” Trudeau added, making clear his frustration with the Trump Administration.
The Canadians quickly issued a long list of products which would be subject to new tariffs, covering everything from toilet paper to plywood, aluminum tubes, bobbins, beer kegs, sleeping bags, pens, playing cards and boat motors.
“These countermeasures will take effect on July 1, 2018 and will remain in place until the U.S. eliminates its trade-restrictive measures against Canada,” the Trudeau government announced.
The Mexican government also promised new tariffs on a range of products coming in from the U.S., hitting farm products like apples, grapes, blueberries, cheese, and pork.
“Mexico has repeatedly indicated that this type of measures under the criterion of national security are not adequate or justified,” the Mexican government said in a statement, echoing their Canadian neighbors to the north.
“Mexico reiterates its position against protectionist measures that affect and distort international merchandise trade,” the statement added.
In Congress, members of both parties criticized the Trump tariffs, saying it made no sense to go after Mexico, Canada and Europe, and not address problems with steel dumping from China.
“To date, the Trump admin appears to be pursuing a trade policy that creates economic chaos and uncertainty rather than jobs for hard working Americans,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“This is dumb,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), as GOP lawmakers from farm country expressed their displeasure.
“Time and time again I have voiced my concerns on steel and aluminum tariffs and the damage they will cause across many sectors of the economy,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS). “Agriculture in particular is likely to face harm from retaliatory action and the uncertainty that comes with it.”
And along the Canadian border, there was anger as well.
“Canada is Vermont's largest trading partner, and Vermonters stand to lose big under this ham-handed policy,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
“Today's actions — and the inevitable retaliatory moves by these countries — will hurt working Americans, negatively affect our economy, and do not further the goal of fostering more equitable trade,” said Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA).
The White House though was giving no hints of any second thoughts, pointing out that several countries have reached new trade agreements dealing with steel and aluminum, like South Korea, Australia, Argentina and Brazil – while others have not – Canada, Mexico, and Europe among them.
“The President made it clear that the Administration was willing to work with those countries to find separate arrangements that would meet the national security requirements of the United States,” the White House said in a statement, as Mr. Trump tries to use the tariffs as leverage to cut new trade deals, like a re-write of the North American Free Trade Agreement among the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
But that made little impact with lawmakers.
“President Trump's trade war will not end well,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL).