Trump threatens retaliatory levy over trade

Posted February 16, 2018

The administration of US President Donald Trump has brought a range of commerce cases against China, sparking fears of a trade war.

Trump instructed the Commerce Department previous year to probe whether imports of steel and aluminum represent a threat to USA national security, under the seldom-used Section 232 of a 1960s trade act. The administration has another two months to decide on possible retaliatory action.

But Trump also said he "wants to hear from both sides before making a trade decision". The President and lawmakers like Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown blame China for driving prices down, by flooding the market with cheap steel.

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The U.S. trade deficit - which Trump has vowed repeatedly to fix - widened even further during his first year in office, up 12 percent to $566 billion.

Dumping, or selling goods at unfairly low prices overseas, can undercut domestic markets at the expense of home industries, the ministry said in a statement.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is said to have told the lawmakers that Section 232 powers "can be applied in a much more surgical way" that could lead to tariffs on imports from certain countries and quotas from other nations suspected of transshipping products.

China is anxious about the "serious tendency of USA protectionism in the field of steel products", he said. "But we buy a lot of aluminum and we buy a lot of steel as well".

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But House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said after the meeting that Trump "was listening very carefully".

"Despite the rhetoric, Trump doesn't want to subvert "his" economy", Ikenson wrote this week. But in the meeting today, many lawmakers urged him to be careful.

Relations with South Korea are also strained, mainly due to Mr Trump's sabre-rattling over North Korea's nuclear program.

The Trump administration initiated talks to renegotiate the United States-Korea (KORUS) trade agreement in July past year, arguing it was lopsided because American's bilateral trade deficit had ballooned under it.

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To rectify the situation, Trump said, there should be reciprocal taxes that would encourage other countries to reduces their levies to zero, advancing free trade.