So apparently, Donald Trump has simply been too damn busy with everything he’s got on his plate to think through who “should” and “shouldn’t” (scare quotes there for a reason) be exempt from his steel and aluminum tariffs.
Today, temporary waivers expired and rather than decide, once and for all, who’s a friend and who’s a frenemy, he just kicked the can for another month, presumably to give him time to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement, meet with Kim Jong-Un, and send Mnuchin to China to try and help avert the kind of blowback that would ultimately destabilize global equities.
Late last night, the administration said it’s decided to delay until June 1 tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum for the EU, Mexico and Canada. Agreements-in-principle have been reached with Argentina, Australia and Brazil.
The problem here is obvious: the EU was already concerned that Trump might not know what he’s doing and the deadline extension only makes things worse by creating more uncertainty.
Some speculate this is a negotiating “strategy”, but don’t kid yourself, he ran up against his own deadline and, distracted with the myriad geopolitical issues swirling around the administration, did what you would expect Trump to do – he said “fuck it, let’s figure it out later.”
He’s hitting the “snooze” button and in the process, further delaying a decision that will affect the future of global trade and commerce. It’s absurd in the extreme, but then again, what did you expect?
Of course by putting the decision off, he also opens the door for further aggravation and perhaps countermeasures from trading partners who are sick of waiting to find out whether they’ll be exempted or not. That, in turn, raises the odds of a miscalculation.
Here, via Bloomberg, is a list that tells you where things stand on a country-by-country basis:
- European Union: Tariffs delayed until June 1 as negotiations continue. EU responded by saying it won’t negotiate under threat, should get a permanent waiver and that the U.S. levies violate WTO rules
- Canada, Mexico: Tariffs delayed until June 1 as negotiations continue
- Australia, Argentina, Brazil: The administration has reached agreements-in-principle with these three nations. Details “will be finalized shortly”
- South Korea: Already spared from tariffs after Seoul agreed in March to a quota of 70% of its average steel exports to U.S. between 2015 and 2017. This permanent exemption was confirmed in Monday’s statement
- China/Japan/others: Tariffs were supposed to take effect March 23 though some nations may be engaged in bilateral negotiations