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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump is now confronting two nuclear standoffs and fighting a trade war on multiple fronts — all at the same time.

The big picture: Trump's March decision to agree to meet with Kim Jong-un led to speculation he might hold off on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, so as not to face dueling nuclear dilemmas. He didn't. Common cause on North Korea had seemed to pave the way for a trade war truce with China. It didn't. Now, Trump is slapping tariffs on America's closest allies — and they're hitting back.

The latest: Trump's tariffs — 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum — will go into effect at midnight on the E.U., Canada and Mexico, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters today.

  • European Commission President Jean-Claude Junckercalled the move "protectionism, pure and simple" and said Europe had no choice but to retaliate. The E.U.'s list of targets includes "everything from corn and tobacco, to T-shirts, Levi's jeans, bourbon, motor boats and various forms of steel," per NPR.
  • Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced tariffs on U.S. steel, aluminum and other products, to match the total value of Canada's 2017 steel and aluminum exports to the U.S. He called the tariffs "totally unacceptable," and said he finds it "inconceivable" that "Canada could be considered a national security threat to the United States."
  • "Mexico’s Economy Ministry said it would target several U.S. goods in response, including some steel and pipe products, lamps, berries, grapes, apples, cold cuts, pork chops and various cheese products," per the WSJ.

The big picture:

  • Gary Hufbauer, a former senior Treasury official now at the Peterson Institute, told me "this is not a macroeconomic event, this is pinpoint pain" for certain U.S. firms and industries. "But pinpricks are very painful for those on the receiving end," he added, and members of Congress from affected districts will be speaking out.
  • He said a deal to change the tariffs to quotas, which are less painful for exporters, was likely to be reached in 3 months or so with Europe, and sooner with Mexico and Canada — though NAFTA negotiations could complicate things.
  • "I think the way this turns into a macro event is if the Chinese don't come up with a nice pot of concessions when Ross goes over there this weekend," Hufbauer said. He noted Trump has threatened tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese products, while the steel trade is worth $10-15 billion.

The bottom line: Trump needs Europe to help him confront China, and China to help him squeeze North Korea. Facing several crises at once, he seems to have scores of allies and none at the same time.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 2 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker