How they see us: Trump’s tariffs anger U.S. allies
The U.S. “has just declared war,” said Martin Kettle in The Guardian (U.K.). President Donald Trump’s decision to slap a 25 percent tariff on all steel imported from Canada, Mexico, and the European Union, and a 10 percent duty on imported aluminum, is an act of aggression against America’s closest allies. Free trade has bound the nations of the West together for more than half a century, but this attack marks “a turning point. It declares us America’s enemies.” The tariffs are “so hurtful as to be incomprehensible,” said The Globe and Mail (Canada) in an editorial. To evade World Trade Organization strictures, the U.S. president invoked national security as the reason for his “erratic and irresponsible decision.” As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said while announcing retaliatory duties on U.S. goods ranging from ballpoint pens to toilet paper to maple syrup, that suggestion is an affront “to the thousands of Canadians who have fought and died alongside American comrades-in-arms.” Trudeau also pointed out that the U.S. has a $2 billion surplus in steel trade with Canada, but since Trump is entirely “immune to reason,” invoking facts is useless.
Trump cares about one thing only: enriching his family, said Scott Gilmore in Maclean’s (Canada). Countries get what they want from him through bribery—China granted his daughter Ivanka trademarks, and a Qatar-linked company is investing in son-in-law Jared Kushner’s real estate. The smart retaliation, then, would be to target Trump’s family businesses. Canada could levy a special tax on Trump properties, the EU could revoke visas for Trump Organization employees, and the U.K. could close his golf courses. It sounds like satire—but then so does the idea of a U.S. president “dismantling the entire liberal international order” because he is “focused on promoting his own interests, at the expense of American allies, and at the expense of Americans themselves.”
Trump is just facing reality, said Dmitri Lekukh in RIA Novosti (Russia). The U.S. trade deficit grew nearly 13 percent to $568 billion last year. If that trend continues, and the U.S. continues to buy more than it sells to the world, “the American economy will simply die.” Unlike past presidents, Trump is determined “to selfishly work in the interests of the national economy” and not that of “‘globalist’ financial circles.” Other countries will have to do the same. The age of globalization is over.
American international leadership is dead, said Jean-Marc Vittori in Les Echos (France), but free trade lives. The huge trade treaty known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership is steaming ahead despite Trump’s pullout, and the world’s top economies are quietly discussing creating new trade mechanisms for the post-U.S. era. China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank has 64 member countries, a third of them European—and unlike the U.S. with the World Bank, China doesn’t have a veto. The world won’t let “the seeds of discord planted by the U.S. president germinate and grow. ■