Trump to talk tariffs in farm country, mill town

Roman Schwartz
July 27, 2018

In a joint Rose Garden appearance with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Trump announced significant trade concessions that would boost US exports in several sectors.

Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer said negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement were proceeding at "an unprecedented speed".

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said it's too early to say if the administration will decide to impose tariffs, though he noted that the president recognizes the indispensable nature of the USA auto industry. The plan will take effect around Labor Day, with the $12 billion total "calculated to match the estimated $11 billion of economic damage that retaliatory tariffs will inflict on US farmers", officials told The Washington Post.

Mr. Trump also won a commitment to work together to reform the World Trade Organization to address some of his complaints about China on theft of USA technology, the behavior of state-owned enterprises, and overcapacity in steel.

"It's a positive step, but one that we'll have to see if this truly is progress", said Dan Ujczo, a trade lawyer at Dickinson Wright in Ohio.

The tone was friendlier than it has been.

Steel stocks fell Thursday after President Donald Trump suggested he would backpedal in a trade face-off with the European Union that has sent prices of the metal soaring.

"We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods", Trump had said moments before the European Union chief refused his gesture. But we have to do it.

Trump added: "This was a very big day for free and fair trade, a very big day indeed".

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Under pointed questioning from a Senate committee, USA trade representative Robert Lighthizer is testifying today about the administration's trade policy and 2019 budget.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier was even more enthusiastic, hailing the talks as a "breakthrough" that could avoid a trade war and save millions of jobs.

Minutes later, at a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Juncker said that the agreement emphasised the "special" nature of the alliance between the USA and the European Union going on to stress that trade between the two parties comprises half of all global commerce.

"What I can say is that the president finds it extremely inappropriate for somebody to go on television under the perception of legitimacy, integrity and level false and baseless claims against another person without any evidence whatsoever", Gidley told the press gaggle.

Trump campaigned on a vow to get tough on trading partners he accuses of taking advantage of bad trade deals to run up huge trade surpluses with the U.S.

As part of broader efforts to rearrange global-trade relationships, the Trump administration announced tariffs of 25% on steel and a 10% on aluminum in March.

Whatever progress was achieved Wednesday could provide some relieffor USA automakers.

Critics of the agreement were especially miffed that existing steel and aluminium tariffs will remain in place despite the White House meeting.

Agricultural equipment makers Deere & Co. and Agco both advanced, but General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler all fell.

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