U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of new tariffs on steel and aluminum is eliciting strong reactions at home and around the world.
America’s neighbors breathed a sigh of relief at being granted an exemption from the tariffs. Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said despite the concession, Canada would continue to push back.
“In recent days, we have worked energetically with our American counterparts to secure an exemption for Canada from these tariffs,” she said. “This work continues and it will continue until the prospect of these duties is fully and permanently lifted.”
Canada is the largest supplier of steel and aluminum to the United States. Freeland ridiculed Trump’s national security justification for the measure, saying: “That Canada could pose any kind of security threat to the United States is inconceivable.”
Other allies took an equally combative stance.
“Protectionism, tariffs never really work,” British trade minister Liam Fox said Thursday. “We can deal multilaterally with the overproduction of steel, but this is the wrong way to go about it,” he said.
As did Canada, Fox said it was “doubly absurd” to target Britain with steel tariffs on national security grounds when it only provided the U.S. with 1 percent of its imports and made steel for the American military.
France said it “regrets” Trump’s decision.
“There are only losers in a trade war. With our EU partners, we will assess consequences on our industries and agree (to an) appropriate response,” Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire tweeted Thursday.
Last week, Le Maire had warned that any such measures by the U.S. would be “unacceptable” and called for a “strong, coordinated, united response from the EU.”
During the announcement of the tariffs, the White House said that countries concerned by the tariffs could try to negotiate possible exemptions.
“The EU is a close ally of the U.S. and we continue to think that the EU must be exempted from these measures,” said EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmstrom.
“I will demand more clarity on this issue in the days to come,” she said.
WATCH: Economists Warn of Escalating Trade War Following US Steel Tariffs
Invitation to a trade war
Others also panned the tariffs as an invitation to a trade war.
“If you put tariffs against your allies, one wonders who the enemies are,” said the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned, “Choosing a trade war is a mistaken prescription. The outcome will only be harmful. China would have to make a justified and necessary response.”
Brazil also said it planned such negotiations.
“We will work to exclude Brazil from this measure,” acting Trade Minister Marcos Jorge told Reuters. Brazil is the United States’ No. 2 steel supplier.
Mixed reactions on Capitol Hill
Many of the reactions around Washington were mixed.
“There are unquestionably bad trade practices by nations like China, but the better approach is targeted enforcement of those bad practices. Our economy and our national security are strengthened by fostering free trade with our allies,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said.
Senator Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, who is not planning to seek re-election, said he will “immediately” draft legislation that attempts to block the tariffs.
“These so-called ‘flexible tariffs’ are a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth: protectionism and uncertainty,” Flake said in a statement. “Trade wars are not won, they are only lost.”
But Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virgina said he was “excited” by the idea of tariffs.
“I’m encouraged, I really am, and I think it gives us a chance to basically reboot, get jobs back to West Virginia, back to America,” he said.