Despite opposition from much of his entire cabinet and warnings that imposing strict tariffs on steel imports would likely harm many American workers while sparking a trade war, President Donald Trump on Thursday decided to go ahead with the punishing import restrictions anyway—just days after the steel industry launched a massive ad blitz aired on TV programs "Trump has been known to watch."
"Tariffs are economically destructive and regressive. Imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum is bad policy for the vast majority of Americans."
—Richard Phillips, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy
"We hope the president will see the ad and approves of the message," said Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which funded the six-figure ad buy that appeared on Fox, CNN, and MSNBC.
Aired for the first time on Tuesday, the ads implored Trump—who reportedly watches four hours of TV per day—to "take action" and declared that "America's workers are counting on you to protect our jobs and to defend our national security. It's time to keep the promise and to protect American Steel."
As the New York Times reported shortly after Trump's announcement, one of the ads ran during "Fox & Friends," reportedly the president's favorite show, before Trump sent this tweet on Thursday:
Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world. We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 1, 2018
Trump has long approved of this message trumpeted by the steel industry—making it one of the central planks of his campaign—but hesitated to take action on it as members of his administration argued the move would likely provoke retaliation from other countries, China in particular.
On Thursday, Trump flouted these warnings and announced that he will impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. While many crucial details of the plan are murky and still being written, Trump is expected to formally sign the trade measures as early as next week.
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Almost immediately after Trump announced his plan during a hastily-organized meeting with steel and aluminum executives, the stock market began to plummet, other nations pledged to enact countermeasures, and analysts repeated warnings that tariffs will not reverse the steel industry's decline and could lead to massive job losses, just as they did in 2002.
Tariffs are economically destructive and regressive. Imposing a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum is bad policy for the vast majority of Americans. On the plus side, at least its not the 35% across the board tariff Trump has proposed many times. https://t.co/jWg4SVBdcu
— Richard Phillips, Inc. (@taxjusticewonk) March 1, 2018
A study on the 2002 steel tariff showed net-negative consequences for US economy (https://t.co/ghNx7SCxUV)
- 200,000 Americans lost their jobs to higher steel prices during 2002. These lost jobs represent approximately $4 billion in lost wages from February to November 2002.
— Christopher Vecchio (@CVecchioFX) March 1, 2018
While labor-backed economists recognize the role tariffs can play in protecting some jobs in the steel industry, other experts concluded that Trump's approach is a long way from a progressive or sound trade policy.