Mar 2, 2018

Trump launches tariff war — and Turnbull may be a victim

Donald Trump's announcement of punitive tariffs on steel imports will hurt American businesses and consumers -- and maybe Australian workers and Malcolm Turnbull as well.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

After a typical White House day of chaos and indecision, Donald Trump overnight announced the most dramatic moment of US protectionism in decades: the imposition of 25% tariffs on steel imports and 10% on aluminum.

The tariffs, which are higher than earlier forecast, will almost certainly spark retaliatory measures from countries affected by them. The top five steel importers for the US are Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico and Russia. China is the 11th largest importer, and already subject to restrictions imposed by Trump. Australia is a small player in the US market, but BlueScope Steel exports around $170 million a year there, and Malcolm Turnbull lobbied furiously during his Washington trip last week for Australia to be exempted. BlueScope, however, will also benefit from the tariffs, because it owns a major steel maker called North Star in Ohio and has controlled 100% of the business since late 2015, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.

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14 thoughts on “Trump launches tariff war — and Turnbull may be a victim

  1. Jussarian

    What are our retaliatory options under the 2004 so-called Free Trade Agreement?

    1. DF

      Thought the same thing – aren’t we exempt under the AUSFTA?

      1. Paul Guy

        Will Turnbull have the guts to take his new bff to the International courts?

        1. EG

          Nice if he did PG.
          What a waste of time and money his latest sojourn to the US has been and isn’t Joe Hockey doing a sterling job for us.

          1. AR

            Sojourn is not a journey, it means to remain.
            If only he had stayed there or at least remained in the Caymans with his 200M greatest love.

      2. old greybearded one

        Ha ha ha ha. You can’t enforce anything again st the US it doesn’t recognise international courts and it never intended to disadvantage its own and under that milksop FTA it didn’t either.

  2. graybul

    Thought PM’s neck was safe Bernard as yesterday must have mis-heard Australia was exempt? Ah well . . . read on before fixating on your last sentence re lessons of the 1930’s. Mussolini next thought line; and all know how that ended.
    Then, as often happens with we ageing generations: Mussolini . . . Trump; Mussolini . . . Trump. Remember how the former used to blow out his chest, head back and chin out. Lordy lordy . . . Under pressure, or when wanting to impress presence . . . body language of Trump . . . absolute, absolute; alter ego of Italian despot!
    Now what was it Bernard . . . tariff’s, steel and the brilliance of PM’s negotiation skills . . .

  3. Mr B Barry

    Turnbull will always be a victim. He has done nothing for Australia. He staggers from one political disaster to another and during his term of office the country has gone backwards. His leadership has been embroiled in political scandal after political scandal. He has turned a blind eye to political fraud as his politicians rort their expenses and waste millions jet setting around the world first class. He thrives on injustices his government dishes out to genuine Australians while at the same time his army of boofheaded bureaucrats favor unruly mobs of immigrants.
    Turnbull will never be victim. He passes that mantle off to long suffering genuine Australians trying to survive under his autocratic rule.

    1. graybul

      Would be more comfortable with . . . “Turnbull will always be a conundrum.” Everything else a “Hear Hear”!

  4. old greybearded one

    If Turnbull thinks he can kiss and cuddle Trump into anything he is a twerp. The only thing you can say for sure about shaking hands with the chief Trumpet is to quote Kris Kristofferson “you better count your fingers when he tuns loose ofyour hand”

    1. zut alors

      Or, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

      Poor friendless Malcolm, just when he thinks he’s made a political buddy he discovers he’s been dudded. The reality is that Trump is as trustworthy as Abbott. A concept Turnbull should easily grasp.

  5. klewso

    Funny isn’t it – any other time Trump’s a dribbling fool – but when Tuppence goes to Washington, suddenly Trump’s bestowed gravitas by our media?

  6. AR

    Talcum Malfeasance had barely unpacked his bags from his triumphant Pilgrimage of Obeisance before learning he – we, in reality – have been screwed.
    Not that he cares about us but how it must gall him to realise what it’s like when he’s not the richest bloke in the room.

  7. Arky

    Politically, it serves Turnbull right for cuddling up to Trump like that and boasting about how great his relationship is with Trump. It had echoes of “deputy sheriff” Howard.

    Politically in America, it’s going to be interesting because it was noticable during the campaign how protectionism was firmly lodged in both the Trump campaign and the SANDERS campaign- arguably this move will make Trump more popular on parts of the left as well as parts of the right, people who’ve turned a blind eye to history and think protectionism will increase jobs and income at home and stick it only to the profits of “multinational corporations” (if you’re a protectionist on the left) or stick it to China (if you’re a protectionist on the right).

    Economically it will serve nobody. Australians forgot very quickly how much it boosted the whole country when Keating orchestrated the reduction of Australia’s tarriffs.

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