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U.S. Allies Could Be Affected By Trump Administration's Proposed Tariffs


The Trump administration is threatening to impose crippling tariffs on the imports of steel and aluminum. They want to curb China's aggressive steel production, but the move could also affect relations with some key U.S. allies. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The Trump administration regularly complains China is flooding the steel market, driving down prices, including here in the U.S. The Commerce Department's recommendation to impose a whopping 24 percent tariff on all steel imports would be a blow to China. But other countries exporting steel to the U.S., such as Mexico and South Korea, could be collateral damage, says Michael Moore, a professor of international economics at George Washington University.

MICHAEL MOORE: I can't imagine it's going to improve relations (laughter). It's an important market for them. They haven't been accused of doing anything wrong.

NORTHAM: Moore says some longtime allies and trading partners such as the European Union are already warning they may retaliate, placing their own tariffs on American products like Kentucky bourbon and Wisconsin cheese. Others could take their case to the World Trade Organization.

MOORE: And I think a lot of governments will start to worry that the United States is not the reliable partner and start - make other arrangements, other trade agreements.

NORTHAM: That includes Canada, the largest exporter of steel to the U.S. Paul Moen, an international trade lawyer at Earnscliffe Strategy Group in Ottawa, says the Canadian government has learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to the Trump administration's trade negotiations.

PAUL MOEN: On the other hand, I think that they were perhaps a little bit surprised that an industry that is so integrated on the business side, on the labor side, on the security side, that - why would you want to attack your neighbor and your friend on this case?

NORTHAM: Moen, speaking by Skype, says the Canadian government is using the so-called maple charm initiative, including diplomacy and appealing to business partners in the U.S.

MOEN: I think the key challenge is, how does Canada not be the dolphin caught in the tuna net, right? How do we not be collateral damage in trade actions that are ostensibly aimed at countries like China?

NORTHAM: The Trump administration could still exempt a number of countries, including Canada, from tariffs on their steel exports. That's up to President Trump, who's due to announce his decision April 11. Jackie Northam, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMUNE AND MUJO'S "DETROIT STREETS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.