President Donald Trump announced Thursday the United States will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
Trump said tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports will be in effect for a long period of time. He said the measure will be signed “sometime next week.”
In a Twitter post earlier Thursday, Trump said that “Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world.”
At the Thursday meeting, Trump said the NAFTA trade pact and the World Trade Organization have been disasters for the United States. He asserted “the rise of China economically was directly equal to the date of the opening of the World Trade Organization.”
Trump told officials from steel and aluminum companies that the United States “hasn’t been treated fairly by other countries, but I don’t blame the other countries.”
Without more details about which countries will be affected by the tariffs, it is difficult to gauge their impact.
In 2017, Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico accounted for nearly half of all U.S. steel imports. That year, Chinese steel accounted for less than 2 percent of overall U.S. imports.
Trump emphasized his respect for Chinese President Xi Jinping, and said he told Xi when visiting China, “I don’t blame you, if you can get away with almost $500 billion a year off of our country, how can I blame you? Somebody agreed to these deals. Those people should be ashamed of themselves for what they let happened.”
Xi’s top economic adviser, Liu He, is set to visit the White House on Thursday to meet with top administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.
A White House official speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters that they expect a “frank exchange of views” and will focus on “the substantive issues.”
Ryan Hass, a fellow in the Foreign Policy program of the Brookings Institution, told VOA that, in the best-case scenario, Liu’s visit will assure both sides that “they are committed to solving underlying problems in the bilateral trade relationship.” Hass noted, “In such a scenario, both sides would agree on the problems that need to be addressed, the framework for addressing them, and the participants and timeline for concluding negotiations.”
Hass said if Liu’s visit fails to exceed the White House’s expectations, then the probability of unilateral U.S. trade actions against China will go up. “If the U.S. takes unilateral actions, China likely will respond proportionately, and that could set off a tit-for-tat cycle leading to a trade war,” he said.