With no end in sight to Trump's ongoing trade wars with other nations, Trump announced this morning that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina.
Because they're intentionally lowering the value of their currencies, or something. It's gobbledygook.
Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies. which is not good for our farmers. Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries. The Federal....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2019
Just like the rest of us, officials in Argentina and Brazil were caught off guard by Trump's announcement.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, an avowed Trump fan who has sought closer U.S. ties, said in local radio interview that he would call his U.S. counterpart, who he was confident would listen to Brazil’s concerns.
“Their economy is not comparable with ours, it’s many times bigger. I don’t see this as retaliation,” Bolsonaro said in a radio interview with Brazil’s Radio Itatiaia.
“I’m going to call him so that he doesn’t penalize us ... Our economy basically comes from commodities, it’s what we’ve got. I hope that he understands ...and I’m almost certain he’ll listen to us,” he said.
Argentine Production Minister Dante Sica said Trump’s announcement was “unexpected” and he was seeking talks with U.S. officials. Additionally, Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said it will begin negotiations with the U.S. State Department.
Bolsonaro will soon learn what the rest of us already know; that everyone who works with Trump is eventually humiliated.
You can be Trump's biggest fan in the entire world and it won't make a lick of difference to him if he believes that stabbing you in the back will be politically advantageous.
As for Trump's tariffs; there's no evidence that any other countries are intentionally conspiring to devalue their currencies to make their exports more attractive but, even if that were the case, Trump's tariffs on foreign metal will hurt farmers more than if the Brazilian real is worth a few American cents less than it was before. Trump's tariffs on foreign metal drive up the cost of basic supplies and farm equipment, rippling from manufacturers of farm equipment to farmers who use the equipment.
Ironically, Trump's trade war is the greatest force in the world outside of central banks for increasing or decreasing the relative value of currencies. For example, the dollar tumbled by 0.42 percent this morning after Trump's announcement. And we don't know if that's intentional. While Trump accuses other countries of manipulating the value of their currency, the effect of his own policies and his big mouth (and his Twitter feed) is more of the same.
With all of this said, it's an open question to me what legal authority Trump could cite to reimpose these tariffs. A federal court recently ruled that Trump's authority to impose tariffs on foreign metal for "national security" reasons has expired.