WP: Trump faces his biggest trade decision yet




June 19, 2017 | By Damien Paletta and Ana Swanson.

The White House is on the cusp of a major decision about whether to impose new restrictions on steel imports, a choice that has divided President Trump’s administration while sparking global fears about a burgeoning trade war.

The Commerce Department has for months been evaluating whether steel imports pose a threat to national security, and it is expected within days to present Trump with its finding and a recommendation, which Trump could quickly adopt or decide to take a different course.

Based on its decision, the White House could impose new steel tariffs, import quotas or a combination of the two, said senior administration officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal divisions.

The move could provide relief for a domestic steel industry that says it badly needs it, but it could also raise steel costs at every step of the supply chain — increasing expenses on consumers and on many of the manufacturing industries Trump promised to protect. Additionally, the move has the potential to upset some of the country’s closest international allies, and it could spark a set of retaliatory trade moves against U.S. companies trying to sell their products abroad.

Restrictions on steel imports would be Trump’s strongest move yet to fulfill his campaign promise to radically alter U.S. trade policy, but there has been a big divide within the Trump administration over whether to go forward with the move. The Defense Department and National Economic Council have raised concerns about economic and diplomatic fallout from protectionist moves.

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