Mar 8, 2018

Trump launches his trade war, with reprieves for Mexico & Canada

Donald Trump during a meeting on March 6. Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump signed two proclamations today that go into effect on March 23, one imposing a 25% tariff on steel and the other a 10% tariff on aluminum. The president confirmed that Canada and Mexico are exempt from the tariff increases, citing national security agreements — specifically ongoing NAFTA negotiations. He called the existing taxes an economic and national security "disaster" adding, "we're finally taking action to correct."

The big picture: This will still meet fierce opposition from free traders and large sections of the business community. But it’s not nearly so bad as it originally appeared. Trump initially wanted to impose these tariffs on everyone with no exceptions and no room for exclusions. There’s now plenty of wiggle room.

A factor that influenced Trump: In his conversations with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau he became convinced that he could use the threat of steel and aluminum tariffs as leverage to get a better deal in the NAFTA negotiations, according to sources with direct knowledge. Trump’s team viewed Canada as a bigger problem than Mexico in these negotiations and given Canada sells so much of those metals to the US, Trump saw an opportunity to squeeze them. (Whether it works is an open question.)

The details: The proclamations will be "flexible," allowing the U.S. to address security relationships in an "ironclad way" to defend its steel and aluminum industries, said a senior administration official. Trump explained that they will show "great flexibility and cooperation towards [nations] who are really friends of ours both on a trade basis and on a military basis." The administration is open to allowing some countries to negotiate for exemptions on a "case-by-case" basis, pending separate, bilateral agreements.

What's next: Countries have threatened to protest the increased tariffs, with the EU warning of "tit-for-tat" tariffs of 25% on $3.5 billion worth of American products. We could see an international trade war looming with subsequent hits to the U.S. and global economies.

Go deeper

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 36 mins ago - Health

Iranian state TV: Hardliners win landslide victory in low-turnout election

Photo: Iranian Supreme Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Iranian state TV announced Sunday that hardliners won a landslide victory in the country's parliamentary elections two days ago, including all 30 seats in Tehran, AP reports.

Why it matters: Voter turnout in the election only reached 42.57%, according to Iran's interior ministry, the first time turnout dipped below 50% since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The low turnout may signal dissatisfaction with the Iranian government and the election system.

Go deeperArrow47 mins ago - World

Coronavirus threatens shortages of about 150 drugs

A medical worker in Beijing. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

About 150 prescription drugs — including antibiotics, generics and some branded drugs without alternatives — are at risk of shortage if the coronavirus outbreak in China worsens, according to two sources familiar with a list of at-risk drugs compiled by the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it matters: China is a huge supplier of the ingredients used to make drugs that are sold in the U.S. If the virus decreases China's production capability, Americans who rely on the drugs made from these ingredients could be in trouble.

Go deeperArrow55 mins ago - Health