Trump hits US allies with new trade pain in one-day whirlwind

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 00:15 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a bilateral meeting at the G20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan - Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters): President Donald Trump released a clutch of protectionist trade actions on Monday aimed at long-time US allies, including some countries that have been close to the Trump administration.

The President started by announcing tariffs here on steel from Brazil and Argentina in a tweet, citing US farmers who he said were being hurt by a “massive devaluation” of those countries’ currencies. Brazil and Argentina are both big exporters of agricultural products.

Chinese companies have slashed their purchases of US farm goods since the US started its trade war with China 17 months ago. Both Brazil and Argentina have been trying to strengthen their currencies, despite Trump’s claim.

An Argentinian minister called the tariffs “unexpected”. Brazil’s main steel lobby said it was “perplexed”. The move could drive Brazil to tighter trade ties with China, analysts said. Then the US Trade Representative (USTR) said it would review here hiking tariffs on EU products and adding new ones, because of what it called “lack of progress” in resolving a dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The USTR said a decision by the World Trade Organization on Monday affirmed the US position that European subsidies to planemaker Airbus continue to harm the US aerospace industry. It did not provide specifics on what tariffs it might hike over the long-running dispute.

Finally, after the US markets closed, the USTR said it planned to increase taxes here on $ 2.4 billion in French products including Champagne and handbags by 100%, after determining that France's new digital services tax would harm US companies like Alphabet Inc.'s Google (GOOGL.O) and Apple Inc. (AAPL.O).

The USTR said the Government was also exploring whether to open similar investigations into the digital services taxes of Austria, Italy and Turkey.