A Harley-Davidson motorcycle is parked in front of a restaurant in Shanghai (Johannes EISELE)
Washington (AFP) – President Donald Trump, to the alarm of US trading partners, has kept his course of aggressive trade policy, imposing punitive tariffs on countries he accuses of cheating American workers.
His trade war with China escalated on Monday to cover nearly half of all US imports from that country, is by far the largest and broadest of several fights picked by Trump. Here is a summary of the ongoing conflicts:
– China –
After weeks of threats, Trump followed through with 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion in imports from China, which take effect September 24, and are on top of the $50 billion already subject to 25 percent duties.
The latest round of imports will face 10 percent tariffs through the end of the year, and then the rate will jump to 25 percent, giving businesses time to find new suppliers, officials said.
The new taxes will hit a broad swath of products, including billions in Chinese-made voice data receivers, computer memory modules and automatic data processors.
However, the initial list announced in July was reduced by 300 product lines, sparing consumer electronics like smart watches and bluetooth devices, and child safety products such as high chairs, car seats and play pens, among others.
China has accused the United States of starting the “largest trade war in economic history,” and has again vowed to retaliate with duties on $60 billion in US goods, but since the country only imports $130 billion in US goods, its ability to hit back with matching tariffs is now limited.
Trump has threatened to target another $267 billion in goods the US imports from China.
Beijing has filed a complaint in the World Trade Organization against the US actions.
– European Union –
On June 1, Trump imposed tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum from the EU, Canada and Mexico.
Trump has said the European Union is “possibly almost as bad as China” when it comes to trade, as a raft of retaliatory tariffs from Brussels came into effect on June 22.
From blue jeans to motorbikes and whiskey, the EU’s hit list of products targeted the most emblematic of American exports.
Trump has also threatened to impose punitive levies on imported cars, something Germany’s powerful auto industry particularly fears.
But Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a plan on July 25 to defuse the row, with Washington backing off the auto tariffs against Europe, at least for now.
Both sides are now discussing how to pursue talks toward zero tariffs. But the European Commission is awaiting a negotiating mandate from EU member states.
– Canada and Mexico –
Canada and Mexico, members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the US, have imposed their own counter-tariffs on US goods after Washington’s steel and aluminum duties took effect.
Those tariffs were imposed after Trump came to office demanding an overhaul of the “terrible” NAFTA deal. Complicated talks to that end have been proceeding.
Last month, Mexico and the US finalized a preliminary agreement on a new NAFTA pact they intend to sign by December 1.
Since then, Canada has been in intense talks to preserve NAFTA as a three-country deal, but negotiations remain hung up on the dispute resolution mechanism as well as on Ottawa’s strict control over its domestic dairy market, which Trump has repeatedly railed against.
– Japan –
Japan is another target of Trump’s steel tariffs, which Tokyo calls “extremely deplorable.”
Japan has informed the WTO that it plans to impose retaliatory measures on US goods to the tune of 50 billion yen ($455 million).
It also wants an exemption from the threatened US duties on auto imports, which represent a major threat to its car industry as well as Germany’s.
– Iran –
In May, Trump announced he was abandoning the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposing sanctions in two phases in August and November, with the second targeting the country’s vital oil and gas sector.
That entails the potential for huge penalties against those who trade with Iran, including European energy firms and automakers.
Europe has vowed to keep providing Iran with the economic benefits it received from the nuclear deal.
But many of its bigger companies have already pulled out of the country before their investments could bear fruit, including Total, Daimler, Siemens and Peugeot.
– Turkey –
Igniting a secondary skirmish, Trump this month said that he had doubled steel and aluminum tariffs on NATO ally Turkey amid a row over an American pastor held for two years on terror charges.
The Twitter announcement on August 10 caused the Turkish lira to crash nearly 20 percent, and prompted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to claim Turkey was victim of a “political plot” and an “economic war.”
Turkey has in turn hiked tariffs on imports of several US products such as rice, alcohol, leaf tobacco, cosmetics and cars.
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