PARIS (AFP) — Donald Trump’s high-profile trade war with China may be the biggest threat to the world economy among trade disputes waged or threatened by the United States, but the list of Washington’s targets is lengthening.
The bedrock of Trump’s trade policy disputes is the relation with China.
The world’s two biggest economies have spent two years levying trade tariffs on each other along with threats of more tariffs.
Washington has already hit more than half of the roughly $500 billion in annual U.S. imports from China with increased duties, while Beijing has done the same to around $110 billion worth of U.S. goods.
Trump wants the Chinese to halt massive state industrial subsidies, to curtail its policy of forcing foreign companies to transfer technology to Chinese partners, and to stop thefts of intellectual property.
The next key date is Dec. 15, when new U.S. tariffs could take effect.
Dangled prospects of a modest trade deal that could signal a truce and which have kept financial markets on tenterhooks appeared to be in off-again mode on Tuesday.
Trump told a press conference in London: “I have no deadline. In some ways I like the idea of waiting until after the election for the China deal,” a reference to his bid for a second term in November 2020.
The European Union has long been a U.S. ally, but Trump regularly threatens to slap tariffs on European goods.
German automakers have been spared so far, but French products now are on the front line. After France passed a law taxing digital giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon on revenues earned inside the country, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer threatened tariffs of up to 100% on $2.4 billion in French goods, including wine and cheese in retaliation.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has said that Paris will give up the digital tax only if a global one being mulled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development replaces it.
He said Tuesday that “if there are new American tariffs there will be a European response, a strong response.”
An EU spokesman said the bloc would respond “as one” to the US threat.
A separate front involves an ongoing spat over subsidies for Boeing and European plane-maker Airbus.
On Monday, a World Trade Organization panel found that the EU had failed to remove illegal subsidies to Airbus, reinforcing an earlier WTO decision that allowed the U.S. to retaliate with tariffs on $7.5 billion in EU exports.
And on Monday, Trump said steel and aluminum tariffs would be reinstated on Argentina and Brazil, accusing them of manipulating their currencies and hurting U.S. farmers.
“Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies,” which was hurting American farmers, Trump said on Twitter.
Trump last year announced global tariffs of 25% on steel and 10& on aluminum but later approved exemptions for some countries, including Argentina and Brazil — after they agreed to quotas.
Brazil is the second-largest supplier of steel to the U.S. market, behind Canada.
Brazil and Argentina have benefited from the U.S. trade war with China, as they have stepped in to replace U.S. exports of soybeans and other agricultural goods to the Asian giant.
Closer to home, after months of tense talks, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) took a major step toward replacing the NAFTA trade pact that had ensured free trade in North America for the past quarter century when Mexico ratified the deal in June.
The U.S. and Canada have yet to follow suit, and Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. are seeking a number of changes.
Meanwhile, Trump has cast doubt on the agreement by threatening Mexico with tariffs to force the country to stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.
India is another target of Trump’s wrath, with the U.S. halting in June trade advantages that Indian goods had enjoyed.
Washington removed India from a list of countries that received duty-free access for billions of dollars worth of imports after Trump said the U.S. did not receive comparable treatment in return.
The move came on the back of higher U.S. tariffs on Indian steel and aluminum.
India replied with duties on 28 goods from the United States, including almonds and apples.
© Agence France-Presse