Ross Says Trump Chose Global Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum

(Bloomberg) -- U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said President Donald Trump has chosen a global tariff on steel and aluminum, dimming the hopes of nations that are pressing for exemptions.

“Of the options that I presented, the president chose one -- which was put broad tariffs on all products from all countries,” Ross said in interview on Bloomberg TV. “We have to deal with a global problem on a global basis” to stamp out “this recurring phenomenon” of shipments going through other nations to evade tariffs.

Trump said Thursday he plans to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. However, he didn’t elaborate on the details, saying the formal announcement will come next week. In a tweet on Friday morning, the president said “trade wars are good and easy to win.” 

Allies including the European Union and Canada warned of retaliation after Trump’s announcement. The EU said on Friday that it could target imports of Harley Davidson Inc. motorbikes, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey as part of its response. Many nations are making a last-ditch attempt to have their nation’s steel and aluminum exempt from the action, a targeted strategy the U.S. Defense Department had voiced support for.

Trump “is going to fight back,” Ross said earlier on CNBC. “In any war there may be a few casualties. That just comes with the nature of the beast.”

Global stocks initially slumped on fears of further U.S. action, and a tit-for-tat response by other countries. By mid-day Friday in New York, the S&P 500 Index clawed back its opening drop. Ross said there’s been a “tremendous overreaction in the markets.”

“All this hysteria is a lot to do about nothing,” he said. The cost of items such as Campbell’s Soup cans and Coke cans will increase by less than a cent, he added.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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