Trump’s recent trade moves show adversarial approach has only just begun



David J. Lynch | Washington Post

In White House ceremonies and raucous campaign rallies, President Trump has celebrated a pair of “America First” trade deals he says will end the unfair treatment of American workers.

“Unlike so many who came before me, I keep my promises. We did our job,” he said during the State of the Union address, referring to new trade deals with Mexico, Canada, and China. “…Our strategy has worked.”

The new deals rewrite the trade rules that Trump says were responsible for “the catastrophe” that struck American manufacturing over the past quarter century. Yet with fresh tariffs this month on European aircraft and products such as steel nails and aluminum vehicle bumpers, it’s clear that the high-profile accords have not completed the president’s planned overhaul of U.S. trade relations.

In fact, they are just the start.

Even as Trump celebrated hard-won gains in negotiations with the nation’s largest trading partners, he laid the groundwork for more tariffs, more challenges to longstanding trade norms and more disruption to global commercial flows in the months ahead.

“There’s a lot still to come. I think they believe they have a playbook that works,” said Michael Smart, managing director at Rock Creek Global Advisors. “There’s been a lot of talk about how confident Trump is following his acquittal on impeachment. If you look specifically at the trade ledger, he feels he’s right on track.”

In the past four weeks, the president expanded his March 2018 steel and aluminum tariffs to cover products made from those materials, an implicit acknowledgement that his original approach to curbing a flood of imported industrial metals hadn’t worked.

He authorized the Commerce Department to begin imposing tariffs on U.S. trading partners that allegedly used undervalued currencies to subsidize their exports. And he considered withdrawing the U.S. from a global agreement on government procurement, alarming foreign allies.

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