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Trump's Trade War Cometh: Nations, Critics Push Back Against US Tariffs From All Directions

As trading partners shake their fists and begin issuing retaliatory threats, economic critics lament the dangerous incoherence of it all. "He's just doing this because he can," lamented Paul Krugman. "Worse, there's no obvious end game."

U.S. President Donald Trump holds up a signed presidential memorandum aimed at what he calls Chinese economic aggression in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 22, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Global trade tensions are soaring just days ahead of the upcoming G7 summit with top U.S. economic partners like China and France both issuing fresh warnings that import tariffs announced this week by the Trump administration run the serious risk of creating a trade war in all directions: East, West, North, and South.

"We still have a few days to take the necessary steps to avoid a trade war between the EU and the US, and to avoid a trade war among G7 members," declared French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire following a meeting of top officials from the economic bloc—which includes the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the U.K.—held in the Canadian resort ski town of Whistler over the weekend. "The ball is in the camp of the United States," he added, "it is up to the American administration to take the right decisions to smooth the situation and to alleviate the difficulties."

Meanwhile, the Chinese government—following high-level talks between U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and China's Vice Premier Liu He—issued a statement warning, "If the United States introduces trade sanctions including raising tariffs, all the economic and trade achievements negotiated by the two parties will be void."

Trump's moves are clearly not going to avoid economic consequences and the Business Insider reports Sunday about warnings from economists and trade experts who "say the ultimate result will be a net loss in US jobs — perhaps in the hundreds of thousands."

Offering the following breakdown, Axios on Sunday detailed the products that could now face increased restrictions and penalties by U.S. trading partners:

  • China: Fruit, nuts, wine, pork, aircraft, automobiles (since been cut), soybeans, sorghum (since been cut), corn, cotton, wheat, forms of beef, cranberries, orange juice, whiskey, tobacco, liquid propane, some polyester, plastic products, chemicals, and forms of aluminum and steel. Fortune has a list of 106 products hit.
  • Canada: Cheese, pizza, quiche, chocolate, whiskies, toilet paper, paper towels, strawberry jam, ketchup, mustard, yogurt, lawn mowers, refrigerators, washing machines, maple syrup, beer kegs, mineral water, fresh orange juice, mayonnaise, salad dressing, automatic dishwasher detergents, cucumbers, gherkins, ball point pens, felt-tipped pens, plywood, bobbins, roasted coffee, licorice candy, toffee, hair spray, shaving creams, soaps, candles, kitchenware, manicure and pedicure preparations, handkerchiefs, facial tissues, printed postcards, some insecticides, iron products, sailboats, some chairs, mattresses, plastic bags, sleeping bags, playing cards, soy sauce, and forms of aluminum and steel.
  • Mexico: Lamps, pork, cheese, flat steel, apples, pears, grapes, cheese, blueberries, sausages, and other meat products.
  • EU: Bourbon whiskey, motorcycles, denim, cigarette, cranberry juice, orange juice, some pants and shorts, some bedlinen, corn, tobacco, t-shirts, motor boats, some rice, some beans, peanut butter, and forms of aluminum and steel.

The Guardian reports that American farmers among those most worried about the impact an escalating and unpredictable trade war will have.

And as critics of the president's trade policy over recent days have described Trump's chaotic trade policy along a scale that stretches from "reckless" to the work of a "psychopath," economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Sunday, as he offered a "trade war primer" to readers, argued that what's most troubling about Trump is the utter incoherence of what he's been doing.

"He's just doing this because he can," lamented Krugman. "Worse, there's no obvious end game."

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