THE CAPITALIST world was rocking yesterday after President Trump’s declaration of a trade war on his European Union, Canadian and Mexican rivals. The US tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium came into effect yesterday.
Labour’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner said the UK must not allow President Trump to ‘bully’ his trading partners. He added that the May government and EU should work closely on counter-measures. He told the BBC: ‘President Trump is a bully.
‘He is trying to bully his trading partners into making concessions to America. This is a tactic that he has used successfully with other countries and the only way to deal with it is to stand up to a bully.’ ‘The European Union is not going to have a trade war with the US, but will be forced to retaliate in the event of the imposition by Washington of trade duties,’ said the head of EU diplomacy, Federica Mogherini.
French President Emmanuel Macron was more to the point. He called Trump to tell him the tariffs were ‘illegal’ – a term echoed by Bernd Lange, chair of the European Parliament’s international trade committee. The MEP hoped a trade war could be avoided but warned that Trump’s action demonstrated that the US president was ‘not willing to stick to the rules’. Germany’s Economy Minister, Peter Altmaier, hoped a decisive EU response would make Trump reconsider his decision.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, said the US move was ‘totally unacceptable’ and rejected the claim that his country posed a national security threat to America. Canada plans to impose tariffs of up to 25% on about $13bn worth of US exports from 1 July. Goods affected will include some American steel, as well as consumer products such as yoghurt, whiskey and coffee.
Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said his country was planning new duties for imports of steel, pork, apples, grapes, blueberries and cheese from the US. UK Trade Minister Liam Fox said he would speak to US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross on Monday but added the UK ‘absolutely do not rule out counter-measures’.
The Unite national officer for steel, Tony Brady, said: ‘The UK government cannot continue to be a bystander as the threat of a job-destroying trade war increases. ‘Unite is in regular dialogue with our sister union United Steelworkers in the US and Canada through Workers Uniting and steel unions in Europe via IndustriALL.’
The GMB said its ‘exclusive figures’ show Donald Trumps’ tariffs threaten 34,000 UK steel jobs.
The union added: ‘The region most at risk is Yorkshire and the Humber, where 9,500 jobs could be hit. Just behind is Wales where 9,250 jobs are at risk.’ Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said: ‘The government must act urgently to protect the livelihoods of more than 30,000 steel workers.’
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union, said: ‘Steelworkers on both sides of the Atlantic have been let down by their governments … Meanwhile Donald Trump may well do more harm than good to American manufacturing if a global trade war escalates. Trade unions across the world must stand together in opposition to these measures. ‘The problems of steel dumping will not be solved by unfair tariffs, and steelworkers in the UK and USA must not fall into the trap of believing rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump.’
All Trades Unions Alliance secretary Dave Wiltshire said: ‘Capitalism is in a huge crisis. Everybody knows that trade war is a prelude for a real war as the bosses seek to redivide the world between themselves. ‘The only answer is for the workers of the world to unite against the bosses with socialist revolutions to expropriate the bosses and the bankers to bring in socialist planned economies. ‘Sack the bosses, not the workers, is the answer to this crisis.’