President Trump seems determined to start—and win—a trade war even as his actions see him losing support in the court of public opinion—at least among his peers. During the last few days, economic leaders have been vocal in their displeasure with his decision to move forward with tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union.
Last week, the White House announced plans to move ahead with 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in goods from China. Two days later, came the news about the 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.
The latter actions have caused a rift between the U.S. and the other G7 nations, which just wrapped up a three-day meeting in Canada.
“Unfortunately the actions of the United States this week risk undermining the very values that traditionally have bound us together,” said Bill Morneau, Canada’s minister of finance, in a statement.
Canada also released a statement on behalf of the finance ministers and Central Bank governors in attendance that expressed “their unanimous concern and disappointment.”
“Concerns were expressed that the tariffs imposed by the United States on its friends and allies, on the grounds of national security, undermine open trade and confidence in the global economy,” the statement read. It went on to call for “decisive action” designed to “restore collaborative partnerships to promote free, fair, predictable and mutually beneficial trade.”
The sentiment was so unanimous against the U.S. that French finance and economy minister Bruno Le Maire is widely quoted as calling the talks the “G6 plus one.” He added via twitter, “We cannot understand American decisions on steel and aluminum. The ball is in the United States ‘ camp.”
Faced with the backlash, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is quoted by Reuters as saying “I don’t think in any way the U.S. is abandoning its leadership in the global economy, quite the contrary. I think that we’ve had a massive effort on tax reform in the United States which has had a incredible impact on the U.S. economy.”
Trump has long held that tariffs are the only way to right what he sees as unfair trade, even going so far as to label the steel and aluminum tariffs a national security matter.
The president defended his actions on Saturday via Twitter, saying “The United States must, at long last, be treated fairly on Trade. If we charge a country ZERO to sell their goods, and they charge us 25, 50 or even 100 percent to sell ours, it is UNFAIR and can no longer be tolerated. That is not Free or Fair Trade, it is Stupid Trade!”
He later followed that tweet up with “When you’re almost 800 Billion Dollars a year down on Trade, you can’t lose a Trade War! The U.S. has been ripped off by other countries for years on Trade, time to get smart!”
The E.U. has said it will levy its own tariffs in response on a range of products including U.S. brands like Harley-Davidson and Levi Strauss.
President Trump is expected to join the group for the Leaders’ Summit in Charlevoix, which kicks off on Friday. The G7, which consists of Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the U.K., Italy and the U.S., with participation from the European Union, is a group of seven of the world’s wealthiest nations designed to tackle international economic policies.