Thursday, May 31, 2018

When Friends Are Enemies

"The World As It Is," a memoir by longtime Obama adviser Benjamin Rhodes, will be published next week by Random House. New York Times reporter Peter Baker writes

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany told Mr. Obama that she felt more obliged to run for another term because of Mr. Trump’s election to defend the liberal international order. When they parted for the final time, Ms. Merkel had a single tear in her eye. “She’s all alone,” Mr. Obama noted.

The good news is that Ms. Merkel, as much as anyone now the leader of the free world, is no longer all alone. The bad news is that hernation, as well as other allies of the USA, is being targeted by President Donald J. Trump.  The Hill reports

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the U.S. would levy steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU, Canada and Mexico — a move that puts an end to the temporary exemptions the three trading allies received after Trump made the initial tariffs announcement in March.

Trump is using a U.S. law called Section 232 that allows tariffs to be imposed for national security purposes. Thursday's decision will lead to tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

“We look forward to continued negotiations with Canada and Mexico on one hand and with the European Commission on the other hand as there are other issues we need to get resolved,” Ross said Thursday.

Bloomberg termed it "a move immediately condemned by America’s closest allies," who are likely to retaliate, whether by imposing import duties upon goods from the USA or continuing to press a case at the World Trade Organization against against US import restrictions.

In The New York Times, we read

The Aluminum Association, which represents most of the aluminum producers in the United States, said on Thursday that it was “disappointed” by the announcement. Heidi Brock, the association’s president, said the move would do little to address the larger issue of overcapacity in China “while potentially alienating allies and disrupting supply chains that more than 97 percent of U.S. aluminum industry jobs rely upon."

It's little surprise it doesn't address the problem of Chica, which has begun to pressure international airlines to identify Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau as part of mainland China rather than as the independent territories they are.  In the manner of the exquisitely sensitive Donald Trump, Beijing has warned foreign airlines to respect “territorial integrity and sovereignty, its laws and the feelings of the Chinese people."  Instead, while China is treated with kid gloves by the American president

The European Union and Canada have objected strongly to the use of the national security argument, citing their close alliance and defense agreements with the United States. On Wednesday, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister called the idea that metal imports from her country would threaten American national security “frankly absurd.”

Of course it is. But the Trump Administration, committed tosaving jobs in China, is less about national security than about punishing our allies. Trump can do it, so he'll do it.

"This is dumb," GOP senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska explains, "Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents." First, however, someone has to convince the President that China is an opponent and Mexico, Canada, and the European Union are allies.

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