Trade wars on again in response to Trump’s interventionism

It’;s hard to keep up with Donald Trump’s varying positions on a number of issues, but it looks like trade wards are back on after he imposed tariffs in steel and aluminium imports.It’s too soon to tell what this may escalate into, but the signs look ominous.

Reuters: U.S. isolated at G7 meeting as tariffs prompt retaliation

U.S. President Donald Trump told Canada and the European Union on Friday to do more to bring down their trade surpluses, a day after hitting them and Mexico with import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trump castigated Canada, a top U.S. trade partner and ally, in a tweet on Friday morning, saying it had treated U.S. farmers “very poorly for a very long period of time.”

“Highly restrictive on Trade! They must open their markets and take down their trade barriers! They report a really high surplus on trade with us,” he wrote.

Trump also told French President Emmanuel Macron of the need to “rebalance trade with Europe,” the White House said.

The strong words followed swift responses to the tariffs by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which all plan to retaliate with levies on billions of dollars of U.S. goods, including orange juice, whiskey, blue jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

ODT: Trade war repercussions likely

By later today,  or early tomorrow, it will be known the extent to which Europe, Canada and Mexico will go to counter the United States’ tariffs.

Canada and Mexico have made early moves but there are suggestions more barriers will be put in place for US exports.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally imposed sweeping tariffs on  steel and aluminium imports from the European Union, and its Nafta trading partners Canada and Mexico.

European commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker is promising to have retaliatory measures in place. In a furious address to a conference, Mr Juncker was threatening like for like, enough to make free-trade countries like New Zealand shudder.

The move is likely to have an immediate impact on global trade in steel and aluminium, particularly between the US and Canada, the largest supplier of imported steel to the US.

A meeting of the Group of Seven, in Canada, was taken by surprise by the announcement. Concern about Mr Trump’s hardening approach to trade dominated the discussion panel as top policy makers from the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Canada gathered in the alpine village of Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

There is growing concern trade wars may turn into real wars — particularly with the ongoing tit-for-tat squabble between China and the US.

On Tuesday, the White House pledged to slap an additional 25% tariff on a long list of Chinese products, including metals. Within hours Beijing retaliated with the promise to lift levies on $US50 billion worth of US imports by 25%. The Chinese list includes soybeans, automobiles, chemicals and aircraft. In response, Mr Trump threatened an additional $US100 billion in tariffs against China.

Global supply chains are at risk from the actions being initiated by Mr Trump and, because of his powerful position and erratic behaviour, no-one knows for sure how this will play out.

Mr Trump’s posturing is damaging to not only global trade. He is facing a backlash from some of his Republican allies, who are now worrying about surviving midterm elections.

The bigger fear over the current conflict is how escalating retaliatory tariffs may undermine institutions such as the World Trade Organisation, which have underpinned the world trading system since the aftermath of World War 2 and have prevented the outbreak of major trade wars.


Trump’s tariffs on Washington’s closest allies also drew condemnation at home from Republican lawmakers and the country’s main business lobbying group and sent a chill through financial markets.

The US markets keep bouncing around:

This year they have been as erratic as Trump, which is no coincidence.

While steel and aluminium tariffs may help protect some US industries they are likely to raise prices on many products that use steel and aluminium.

These particular tariffs aren’t likely to impact greatly on New Zealand, but if it escalates into a wider trade war then we are likely to get tossed around in the storm.

Meanwhile Trump is trying to prop up some big business friends: Trump orders Energy Department to help ailing coal, nuclear plants

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday directed Energy Secretary Rick Perry to take emergency steps to keep at-risk coal and nuclear plants running, the White House announced.

Under the directive, Perry would require grid operators to buy electricity from ailing nuclear and coal-fired power plants to keep them from being shuttered.

Trump is an erratic interventionist.

We could print money, but can’t print markets

In a post on

Bernard Hickey wonders why New Zealand is not printing money and thinks we are being severely disadvantaged by not following the crowd.

The New Zealand dollar seems set to rise towards US$1 if the current trends continue.

He then went on to explain what is happening around the world, including:

  • The US Federal Reserve announced an essentially unlimited plan for money printing on Friday morning.
  • Economists are now expecting the Reserve Bank of Australia will cut its interest rates through 2013.
  • This month the European Central Bank unveiled its own programme of unlimited bond buying.
  • The Bank of Japan, which has been printing and stimulating with 0% interest rates for almost 20 years, is considering fresh money printing to try to drag its yen lower.
  • The Swiss National Bank has been printing francs in unlimited fashion for months to cap a rise in its currency against the euro.
  • The People’s Bank of China is also on the verge of its own fresh stimulus.

In the meantime New Zealand doesn’t even fiddle while the world’s economies burn money like it’s going out of fashion.

Yet we are standing aside from this giant game of musical chairs and scratching our chins, wondering why the world is so unfair. We point to the skies and say there is nothing we can do about this bad economic weather.

Outgoing Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard reiterated in his valedictory news conference and parliamentary appearance that there was nothing New Zealand could do about these acts of economic gods.

And our manufacturing sector shows signs of more strain.

All this chin-scratching and finger waving in the air is having very real world consequences. In recent weeks we have seen hundreds of job losses at Tiwai Point, Spring Creek, Huntly, Kawerau and at a fish processing plant in Tauranga. The Reserve Bank’s own Monetary Policy Report noted a slump in manufacturing, particularly the import-competing type in the last year.

I guess we could print more money.

But we can’t print more aluminium, coal or newsprint markets. I put that to Bernard on Twitter (where he was discussing the issue with Fran O’Sullivan).

As yet he hasn’t responded.