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Editorial: America’s unjust tariffs spread friction around the world

Will the United States promote the “America first” principle until the whole world is embroiled in trade friction?

 

The U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has gone forward with new import restrictions, levying high tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union (EU). The tariffs will also be applied to Canada and Mexico, and they have already been imposed on China and Japan. The U.S. is forcing an unusual, hard-line protectionist policy on countries [around the world].

 

The EU has announced it will slap retaliatory tariffs on American products. The world economy could fall into a state of turmoil if major powers like the U.S. and China and now the U.S. and the EU engage in tit-for-tat retaliation.

 

The problem is the approach where a superpower tries to exact concessions from other countries through intimidation.

 

The Trump administration is holding high the banner of reducing the U.S. trade deficit. To date, the U.S. has given the EU a reprieve on high tariffs. In exchange for permanently exempting the EU from high tariffs, it has had the EU reduce tariffs on American cars. Now the U.S. policy is to increase pressure through high tariffs.

 

If the U.S. is asking for market opening, it should hold free trade negotiations.

 

Under the Obama administration, the United States engaged in negotiations with the EU with an eye to concluding a free trade agreement. The negotiations are now on hold because the protectionist Trump administration is in office. Unilaterally demanding conditions advantageous to the U.S. without restarting the negotiations is too opportunistic.

 

The U.S. originally said it was imposing high tariffs because inexpensive Chinese steel and aluminum imports threaten U.S. national security. Despite this, though, the U.S. has imposed the tariffs on the EU and Japan, its allies. This shows how unreasonable an argument the U.S. is making with the aim of extracting concessions.

 

The Trump administration is increasingly pursuing this kind of saber-rattling diplomacy. China is prepared to impose punitive tariffs next month, saying their intellectual property rights are being violated. Furthermore, they have started to consider substantially raising import tariffs on [U.S.] autos.

 

Both are suspected to be in violation of World Trade Organization rules, which prohibit unilateral sanctions. These actions rattle the free trade framework by inviting retaliation.

 

In addition, the decision to impose high tariffs on the EU was made right before the G7 summit. The summit will be held in Canada next week to discuss global economic issues. The United States should in principle play the role of leading international [policy] coordination.

 

As a major power, Japan has a responsibility to maintain the global trade framework. The government is asking the United States to exempt Japan from the high tariffs, but we cannot stop there. Together with the EU and Canada, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should press for the rescindment of the U.S. tariffs at the G7 summit.

 

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