Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From Beer Cans to Cars, Americans Will Feel the Cost of Trade Sanctions

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

From Beer Cans to Cars, Americans Will Feel the Cost of Trade Sanctions

Article excerpt

Executives of the biggest U.S. steel and aluminum companies were all smiles Thursday when President Donald Trump promised sweeping new sanctions against their foreign competitors.

Companies that turn the metals into cars, beer cans and other products aren't nearly as happy. Nor are many of America's closest allies.

The U.S. has imposed tariffs to protect steel and aluminum before, but usually they're meant to penalize dumping or other behavior by one or two specific countries.

The measures under consideration now are different. By invoking national-security concerns under a 1962 law, the president can impose sweeping tariffs or quotas on an entire industry.

A report issued by the Commerce Department last month suggested three options: tariffs of 24 percent on all imported steel and 7.7 percent on aluminum; quotas that would reduce steel imports by 37 percent and aluminum imports by 13 percent; or a mixed system that would impose tariffs on some nations and quotas on others.

Much of Trump's rhetoric has been aimed at China, but punitive U.S. tariffs already keep most Chinese steel out of the country. Chinese steel has to go somewhere, though, and the result is a worldwide glut that has depressed prices.

China accounted for just 3 percent of U.S. steel imports last year. Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico shipped far more. To help U.S. steelmakers, and ostensibly boost national security, Trump may be willing to punish all those nations.

The national-security justification deserves closer scrutiny. The Defense Department released a memo noting that it uses only about 3 percent of U.S. steel and aluminum production, and isn't worried about its ability to keep buying that metal. What the Pentagon is concerned about, it added, is "the negative impact on our key allies."

The Commerce Department's report, however, uses an expansive definition of national security. …

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