A Japanese government source lamented on June 20 that “an encirclement of the U.S. is being formed” when it became apparent that the EU, Russia, and other countries were taking actions to retaliate against the U.S.’s import restrictions on steel and aluminum products.
Russia had responded cautiously to the import restrictions so far, fearing a reduction of imports from the U.S. resulting from the imposition of retaliatory tariffs might impact its domestic economy. However, it is believed that it has now fallen in step with the other countries in taking retaliatory measures against the Trump administration to an extent that would not have a major impact on the people’s livelihood.
India also notified the WTO in May of its plan to take retaliatory measures, following the moves of the major countries to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products.
The reason behind this recent rush of retaliatory tariffs is not clear.
A statement issued by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on June 15 said: “We will call on other countries for joint actions.” It is possible that this is due to advocacy by China, which has been resisting the U.S.-led international order.
A report released by the Trump administration on June 19 criticized China for resorting to state-sponsored violation of intellectual property rights in order to establish hegemony in the hi-tech industries.
It is notable that this report was compiled by the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy led by Presidential Assistant Peter Navarro, a well-known hardliner on China. The sudden issuance of this report was obviously meant to justify U.S. trade policies, and it is widely believed that this is an indication of Navarro’s growing influence in the Trump administration.
Japan has not joined the “encirclement” at this point.
Japan does not want to provoke the U.S. as much as possible because it is necessary to cooperate with the U.S. on the North Korea issues, and a new round of bilateral trade talks is due to begin in July. A government source says: “The situation is different for each country. There are various ways to do things.” Japan is poised to make a cautious decision on whether retaliatory tariffs will be necessary. (Abridged)