Analysis & Opinions - The Wall Street Journal

Trump Courts Economic Mayhem

| Jan. 07, 2018

This year we’ll find out how serious he is about protectionism. So far the signs aren’t good.

President Trump’s new National Security Strategy argues that the U.S. must compete in a hostile world. Yet the White House also wants to retreat behind trade barriers. The Trump administration has stacked up a pile of trade cases that will come tumbling down early in 2018. More important than any specific case is the signal of a strategy of economic defeatism.

The U.S. is ready to block steel and aluminum imports through a rarely used “national security” rationalization. As an alternative, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had tried negotiating capacity cuts in Chinese production, but Mr. Trump waved him off with a demand for tariffs. Because most of China’s metal exports already face U.S. tariffs of more than 80%, Mr. Trump’s tactic will likely trigger retaliation from other countries.

Next up are “safeguards” to block imports of solar panels and washing machines. Imposing “safeguards” doesn’t even require a claim of unfairness. On top of this, last year (through Sept. 20) the Commerce Department conducted 65 investigations of alleged low-cost or subsidized imports. That figure is a 16-year high, up 50% from the year before.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Zoellick, Robert.“Trump Courts Economic Mayhem.” The Wall Street Journal, January 7, 2018.

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