Read

User menu

Search form

Europe Calls Into Question the Legality of Trump's Trade War

Europe Calls Into Question the Legality of Trump's Trade War
Tue, 6/19/2018 - by Charlotte Dingle

The U.S. is getting locked in a spiraling trade war with Europe that may see no winner – but plenty of losers – after President Donald Trump last month imposed trade tariffs of 25 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on imports of steel and aluminium from the European Union.

The E.U. responded by proposing trade sanctions on 2.8 billion euros ($3.25 billion) worth of American goods including Bourbon whisky, Levi jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles. Now, the U.S. plans to impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion in Chinese goods as well. Threats are also escalating to impose tariffs on Canada and Mexico. The legitimacy of what Trump is attempting to do is being widely called into question.

“I think the legality of Trump’s actions is a good place to start, because that partly affects how other countries will respond and therefore what the broader impact is going to be,” Julian Jessop of the U.K.’s Institute of Economic Affairs told Occupy.com.

“These tariffs aren’t even legal under U.S. law, let alone World Trade Organization (WTO) laws. Trump is justifying the latest tariff on the basis of national security under the Trade Expansion Act, which is frankly a bit of a push. It seems rather odd to be citing national security and targeting lots of countries including some of your closest native allies.”

Jessop believes that imposing tariffs on China makes some sense, but Trump’s motives for imposing sanctions on other countries are suspicious.

“If you were making points about dumping (goods), there might be some justification for imposing tariffs specifically against China, but it’s not obvious that the U.S., U.K., the rest of Europe, Canada or Mexico are dumping steel on the U.S.,” he said. “U.S. law is obviously the precedent so he’ll get someone to agree with him on that, but international law is the thing. The E.U., if it has any sense, will issue a legal challenge within the WTO against all this. The problem is that may take a year or two to resolve.”

In any case, he added, "Trump is basically making a political point but the economics are against him and I think that will become increasingly clear over time. It seems to be about once every decade or so that the U.S. imposes tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. George W. Bush did it in the early 2000s and it was widely recognized then that that was a mistake.”

The aluminium industry in particular is feeling the heat from Trump's threats – and his incredulous rationale for raising tariffs.

“We’re close allies of the U.S. and we’re considered strategic partners, so we believe we should be unconditionally exempt from these tariffs,” Tom Jones, CEO of the U.K.’s Aluminium Federation told Occupy.com. “The claim that aluminium imports into the U.K. harm U.S. national security is without any foundation or merit. The action of the U.S. government is protecting its industry from excess production.”

Jones agreed that only the sanctions against China make any modicum of sense. “They’re actually targeting the wrong trading partners. It does little to address the challenges of oversupply from China," he said. "All it does is alienate the E.U. and Canada.”

Jones added that the U.S. may ultimately come off worse in the sanctions war. “The U.S. is the place where jobs will probably mostly be affected. Consumers won’t want to apply the additional tariff on products. The U.S. is heavily dependent on imported aluminium and it’s a crucial raw material for their industrial sectors, so in the U.K. we’ll see less effect on jobs because our exports to the U.S. are quite modest and U.K. industry is quite resilient when it comes to finding other customers.”

Jessop summed up the E.U. trade situation in regards to Trump: “It’s like wild animals rutting: They have fights but it’s against their interests to have a proper fight and risk killing each other. Every now and again we have these fights but it never comes to much.”

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Illustration by Grace Alton

For millions of renters in the U.K., a robust set of policies around rental law would be life-changing. But the bill making its way through Parliament has to be done right.

Public Bank LA, public banking, public finance, city owned banks, Public Banking Institute, cooperative economics, mass movements

What does the disappointing loss on L.A.’s public banking initiative tell us about the future of cooperative economics?

ICE detention centers, ICE abuse, immigrant arrests, Corecivic, Geo Group, General Dynamics, immigrant detentions

ICE does business with a lot of companies that are making big, big money imprisoning children. Now, Geo Group, Corecivic and General Dynamics are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The Pentagon broadens its horizons to domestic surveillance and “insurrection” - the all seeing eye is focused on the home front. Next, if we wanna survive humanity's demise that our choices designed, we have to start making different choices – at the dinner table. Finally, Dr. Sheila Vakharia joins us to talk harm reduction, addiction and drug policy.

Dodd-Frank act, financial collapse, 2008 crash, Alan Greenspan, unregulated markets, Too Big to Fail Too Big to Exist Act, Bernie Sanders, financial regulations

Donald Trump has warned that folks will “lose a lot of money” if the House turns blue. History—namely the 2008 financial crisis caused deregulated banks—suggests red is even costlier.

Illustration by Grace Alton

For millions of renters in the U.K., a robust set of policies around rental law would be life-changing. But the bill making its way through Parliament has to be done right.

Trump, Armistice Day, Trump nationalism, white nationalism, America First

Amid Armistice Day events in France, the president stands at the outskirts of the world stage.

Al Gore, Florida recount, Florida elections, George W. Bush, stolen 2000 presidency, 2018 midterms

At midnight on election day last Tuesday, vote tallies showed Republican candidates ahead in key races in Florida, Georgia and Arizona.

Public Bank LA, public banking, public finance, city owned banks, Public Banking Institute, cooperative economics, mass movements

What does the disappointing loss on L.A.’s public banking initiative tell us about the future of cooperative economics?

women of color, #Houston19, black women judges, judicial reform

Looking for some great news after Tuesday's midterms? Meet the #Houston19.

ICE detention centers, ICE abuse, immigrant arrests, Corecivic, Geo Group, General Dynamics, immigrant detentions

ICE does business with a lot of companies that are making big, big money imprisoning children. Now, Geo Group, Corecivic and General Dynamics are coming under increasing scrutiny.

Posted 4 days 8 hours ago
Public Bank LA, public banking, public finance, city owned banks, Public Banking Institute, cooperative economics, mass movements

What does the disappointing loss on L.A.’s public banking initiative tell us about the future of cooperative economics?

Posted 3 days 6 hours ago

The Pentagon broadens its horizons to domestic surveillance and “insurrection” - the all seeing eye is focused on the home front. Next, if we wanna survive humanity's demise that our choices designed, we have to start making different choices – at the dinner table. Finally, Dr. Sheila Vakharia joins us to talk harm reduction, addiction and drug policy.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago

It’s a testament to how U.S. election rules tip the scales for white, rural voters who support the GOP.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago

In total, 117 women were elected during the 2018 midterm elections – 96 elected to the House, 12 to the Senate and 9 as governor – shattering records and increasing the number of women in power.

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago
Youth Coalition, March For Our Lives, walkout to vote, school walkouts, young voters, 2018 midterms, Road to Change, gun violence, climate change, healthcare for all

The Future Coalition, including organizers with March For Our Lives, are leading students in hundreds of planned walkouts at schools nationwide for Tuesday's midterm election.

It’s a testament to how U.S. election rules tip the scales for white, rural voters who support the GOP.

The Pentagon broadens its horizons to domestic surveillance and “insurrection” - the all seeing eye is focused on the home front. Next, if we wanna survive humanity's demise that our choices designed, we have to start making different choices – at the dinner table. Finally, Dr. Sheila Vakharia joins us to talk harm reduction, addiction and drug policy.

gerrymandering, partisan redistricting, National Conference of State Legislatures

Colorado and Michigan voters – and possibly in Utah as well – called for the creation of independent commissions to decide congressional and legislative district boundaries.

In total, 117 women were elected during the 2018 midterm elections – 96 elected to the House, 12 to the Senate and 9 as governor – shattering records and increasing the number of women in power.