U.S. allies see Trump’s steel tariffs as an insult

No world leader has tried harder to get on President Trump’s good side than Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Whether racing to New York the day after the 2016 election and presenting Trump with a $3,755 gold-plated golf driver, or taking him out on the golf course and serving hamburgers for lunch, Abe has cultivated a close personal relationship with his American counterpart.

.. But now, Japan, which is not just led by a friendly politician but also is a key security ally of the United States, looks likely to be slapped with tariffs on its steel exports to the United States. And to add insult to injury, the reason, Trump says, is rooted in national security.

“The U.S. is suddenly treating Japan as a target,” said Tsuyoshi Kawase, a professor of international trade policy at Sophia University in Tokyo. “The Japanese side is bewildered and confused.”

.. countries that figured, no matter the bumps in relations with Washington, they would wind up on the same side against China in any dispute over steel or unfair trade practices. And yet suddenly there is talk of a trade war between the United States and its supposed friends.
.. Even those leaders who have grown accustomed to the zigs and zags of the Trump White House say this could be different. The consequences of Trump’s targeting other priorities — the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal chief among them — have not had an immediate, concrete effect. But the tariffs could soon put citizens in ally nations out of work, and if a trade war escalates, all sides could feel the pain, officials from Brasília to Brussels to Seoul say.“The impulsiveness of the decision caught us by surprise,” said Diego Bonomo, the head of foreign trade at the National Trade Association of Brazil. His country is the second-largest exporter of steel to the United States.

“It’s an economic shot in the foot,” he said. “When they impose tariffs to hurt Brazilian steel, they hurt their own coal exports and exports of products that use steel.”

.. Trump’s order came hours after Japan and 10 other countries formalized a new Pacific free-trade agreement

.. The announcement also upended a Saturday meeting of the top U.S., E.U. and Japanese trade negotiators, who were originally scheduled to convene to talk about how to take on what they say is China’s unfair support for its steel industry. Instead, officials say, the meeting may turn out to be the first salvo in an unfolding and escalating trade skirmish.

.. The frustration is compounded by Trump’s national security rationale. In fact, say U.S. allies, there is no national security risk to importing steel and aluminum from one’s closest military partners. And any move that damages their own industries also hits at overall NATO readiness and hurts trust among allies, they say.

.. But that response could backfire, some analysts say. If the WTO rules against the White House, and Trump chooses to ignore the ruling, that could effectively spell the end of the organization.

.. “To be honest, everyone kind of agrees with us,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss closed-door European efforts. “I haven’t found anyone who says, ‘No no, the president is right.’ ”

.. The prospect of steel tariffs follows on the heels of similar levies on solar panels and washing machines. But it comes at a sensitive time on the front of North Korean diplomacy.

..  tariffs could have a “negative impact on South Korea-U.S. relations,”

.. Many in Japan worry that Trump’s effort may ultimately undermine global security, not bolster it.

“When trade friction grows between allies, the alliance is weakened,” Watanabe said. “But it’s unclear if Trump understands that.”

Trump insists ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win’ after vowing new tariffs

Trump is imposing the steel and aluminum tariffs by utilizing legal provision that allows the White House to take steps if it can argue that imports threaten the national security of the United States.

Trump’s comments on Thursday and his Twitter posts on Friday made no mention of national security but, instead, referenced what he said was an unfair dynamic where the U.S. buys more from other countries than those nations buy from the U.S.

.. Canadian officials said the steel and aluminum tariffs would be unacceptable and that they would retaliate if it affected their exports to the United States. A number of other countries also expressed alarm. German politician Bernd Lange, who heads the trade committee at the European Parliament, shot back: “With this, the declaration of war has arrived.”

.. Trump believes that tariffs, even on steel produced by other countries, will help revive the U.S. steel and aluminum industries.

.. trade wars are unpredictable and escalate quickly.

.. Gary Cohn tried to prevent Trump from pursuing the tariffs but was bulldozed by other advisers who thought the changes were necessary and would fulfill promises Trump made while campaigning

.. The three-largest U.S. trading partners are China, Canada and Mexico.

Donald Trump Will Soil You. Ask Lindsey Graham.

One day it’s all sun and sycophantic fun on one of the president’s fancy golf courses, where you’re telling yourself that to marvel at his putts and swoon over his swing are small prices for influence and will pay off in the end.

.. That’s the story of Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Its moral couldn’t be clearer. There’s no honor or wisdom in cozying up to Donald Trump — just a heap of manure.

.. Maybe more than any other figure on Capitol Hill, Graham personifies his party’s spastic, incoherent, humiliating response to Trump across time and its fatally misguided surrender.

He denounced Trump before he befriended and defended him. He graduated from the unpleasant experience of being Trump’s punching bag to the unprincipled one of being his enabler. Like the majority of his Republican colleagues in Congress, he reckoned that he could somehow get more than he was giving up, which included his dignity. He reckoned wrong.

.. It was Graham who recently joined Senator Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican, in undercutting the credibility of federal inquiries into Trump’s ties with Russia by recommending that the Justice Department investigate Christopher Steele

.. Did Graham tell himself then that he was craftily staying in Trump’s good graces so that he could coax the president toward saner, better immigration policy?

.. when Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, and David Perdue, a Georgia Republican, strenuously disputed the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole” in the Oval Office, it was not because his talk was actually statesmanlike. No, they heard him fume about immigrants from “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries,” and in that scintilla of semantic difference they found a rationale for muddying the waters and rallying around the president.

.. During the campaign, Graham blasted Trump as the “world’s biggest jackass,” said that the way to make America great again was to “tell Donald Trump to go to hell” and described the choice of Trump versus Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination as a decision whether to be “shot or poisoned.”

.. A fervent champion of national security, he gave Trump a pass for making light of Russian interference in an American election.

.. He sternly reprimanded the media for calling the president “some kind of kook.” Oops! He had hung that same label on Trump,

.. But it’s reckless folly, because it doesn’t take Trump’s creeping authoritarianism, his instability, his degradation of the presidency and, yes, his racism into full account. To flatter him is to sanitize and encourage all of that.

Scam I Am: Why is the G.O.P. Rushing This Tax Abomination?

In fact, they’re rushing to jam the thing through before Doug Jones can be certified, in a stunning act of hypocrisy from the same people who demanded that Obamacare wait until Scott Brown was seated and held up a Supreme Court seat for a year.

.. the Pundit’s Fallacy: “belief that what a politician needs to do to improve his or her political standing is do what the pundit wants substantively.” I.e., “Obama can win the midterms by endorsing Bowles-Simpson,” which the vast majority of voters never heard of.

.. Today’s Republicans are apparatchiks, who have spent their whole lives inside an intellectual bubble in which cutting taxes on corporations and the rich is always objective #1.

.. Their party used to know that it won elections despite its economic program, not because of it – that the whole game was to win by playing on

  • social issues,
  • national security, and above all on
  • racial antagonism,

then use the win to push fundamentally unpopular economic policies.

.. the GOP may also be engaged in the fallacy of points on the board thinking – I’m taking the phrase from Rahm Emanuel, who believed that Obama could gain electoral capital simply by racking up legislative victories.

The idea is that voters are impressed by your record of wins, or conversely that they’ll turn away if you don’t win enough.

Another classically ‘Trumpian’ theme is the idea that, while the liberal international order has helped advance U.S. interests in some cases, it has also hurt the United States.

a Trump administration staffer who reviewed a draft of the document—and shared key excerpts with me—describes it as “divorced from the reality” of Trump’s presidency.

.. A few classically Trumpian themes are there—the wall, concern over trade imbalances—but much of the document reflects the values and priorities of the president’s predecessors.

.. These discrepancies render the document practically meaningless—enough so that it’s likely to be “widely ignored,”

.. In the end, Trump’s actions will matter far more than his words. And no matter how much fanfare this strategy document gets, foreign governments will likely continue to take their cues from the president himself.

 .. broken into four pillars:
  1. defending the homeland,
  2. American prosperity,
  3. advancing American influence, and
  4. peace through strength.

.. It was spearheaded by Nadia Schadlow, senior director for strategy on the National Security Council (NSC). Schadlow is regarded as a conservative foreign-policy expert based on her experience in the establishment think-tank world, including stints at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Smith Richardson Foundation. She joined the NSC at Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster’s request

.. a section on promoting the rule of law is undermined by Trump’s own persistent attacks on the U.S. judicial system.

.. Trump’s NSS, like Obama’s, identifies the security of the U.S. homeland, particularly against terrorist threats and weapons of mass destruction, as a priority;

  • both recognize that promoting economic prosperity is core to sustained U.S. global leadership;
  • both highlight the value of preserving an open and liberal international order that has often times benefited the United States; and
  • both underscore the importance of preserving core American principles and values.

.. The draft NSS also highlights “enhanced intelligence sharing domestically and with foreign partners” as a priority for disrupting terror plots. But Trump, through his own words and actions, has done much to undermine these relationships.

.. once accused the British intelligence agency, GCHQ, of helping the Obama administration wiretap Trump when he was running for president

.. He has undermined the rule of law repeatedly, personally attacking specific judges, the federal judiciary more broadly, as well as the FBI, the Justice Department and their leaders, some of whom he picked.

.. there’s been too much in the past year designed to stoke fear and sow schisms to make credible language of unity, however much I do crave such unity.”

.. Another classically ‘Trumpian’ theme is the idea that, while the liberal international order has helped advance U.S. interests in some cases, it has also hurt the United States.

 

Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser, to depart Trump White House

National security adviser H.R. McMaster called Powell “one of the most talented and effective leaders with whom I have ever served.”

.. Powell, like her colleagues, faces the question of how much influence she ultimately had on the president and his approach to foreign policy.

.. Along with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, the special representative for international negotiations, Powell has been an architect of Trump’s Middle East policy.

.. Powell, also a former Goldman Sachs executive, was to many Trump supporters the antithesis of what the administration should support, given her close ties to Wall Street and support of a traditional Republican view of international affairs.

.. Powell has been lumped into what former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon dismissively calls the “globalists.”

.. One senior White House official described Powell’s relationship with President Trump as “really trusting” and said of his first year in office, “Without her, it would have been worse.”

.. She also worked on Capitol Hill as a House leadership staffer during the tenure of House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

The Ghost of Steve Bannon

it is important to recall the three pillars of the Bannonite “America First” philosophy.

Earlier this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Bannon outlined them: national security and sovereignty; economic nationalism; and deconstruction of the administrative state.

.. As The Washington Post reported at the end of August, Trump continued to defy the wishes of his Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, including by reaching out to Bannon: “The president continues to call business friends and outside advisers, including former chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, from his personal phone when Kelly is not around, said people with knowledge of the calls.”

On Sept. 12, The Wall Street Journal reported that Bannon told a private group in Hong Kong that he “speaks with President Donald Trump every two to three days.”