Trade union members protest President Trump's steel tariffs in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Photo: Cris Faga / NurPhoto via Getty Images

President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum, authorized last Thursday, will likely come with costs to the global economic and diplomatic order that exceed their domestic benefits.

Why it matters: The tariffs were intended to address Chinese economic practices that harm American workers. But in order to truly mitigate that harm, the U.S. would need to collaborate with Europe through institutions such as the World Trade Organization. Instead, Trump's tariffs will create tensions with our trading partners and undermine global stability.

The potential tensions:

  • EU–U.S. relations: The Europeans will not accept a tariff hike without responding. As the world's largest trading bloc and importer of U.S. goods, the EU has plenty of leverage. EU retaliation could result in higher prices for Americans, a slower U.S. economy and, most important for the president, layoffs in key American labor sectors. What’s more: Trump’s decision will further reinforce already negative European views of the U.S. administration.  
  • Managing China: Rather than checking China’s ambitions, Trump’s tariff move will allow Beijing to claim the moral high ground as a supporter of multilateral and open trade. It will also make it harder for U.S. and EU leaders to forge a joint strategy to address concerns about Chinese subsidies and dumping practices.
  • An already-fraying global economic order: The Trump tariffs circumvent the World Trade Organization, the global referee underpinning a stable, multilateral trading system. Trump, an international institution skeptic, is already stalling the appointment of U.S. judges to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body. His invocation of a rarely used national-security clause to justify the tariffs will further undermine the WTO and set a dangerous precedent for other countries to act unilaterally in self-interest.

The bottom line: Rather than checking China’s ambitions as intended, the tariffs will likely create a vacuum of economic and diplomatic leadership for Beijing to fill.

Erik Brattberg is director of the Europe Program and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Go deeper

Biden: The next president should decide on Ginsburg’s replacement

Joe Biden. Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Joe Biden is calling for the winner of November's presidential election to select Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement on the Supreme Court.

What he's saying: "[L]et me be clear: The voters should pick the president and the president should pick the justice for the Senate to consider," Biden said. "This was the position the Republican Senate took in 2016 when there were almost 10 months to go before the election. That's the position the United States Senate must take today, and the election's only 46 days off.

Trump, McConnell to move fast to replace Ginsburg

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump will move within days to nominate his third Supreme Court justice in just three-plus short years — and shape the court for literally decades to come, top Republican sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans are ready to move to confirm Trump's nominee before Election Day, just 46 days away, setting up one of the most consequential periods of our lifetimes, the sources say.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 30,393,591 — Total deaths: 950,344— Total recoveries: 20,679,272Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 6,722,699 — Total deaths: 198,484 — Total recoveries: 2,556,465 — Total tests: 92,163,649Map.
  3. Politics: In reversal, CDC again recommends coronavirus testing for asymptomatic people.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.