While announcing a sweeping investigation aimed at China into whether steel imports are harming America’s national security. he president went after Canada for its dairy policies.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump added a new name Thursday to the list of countries he accuses of preying on U.S. workers and exploiting naive U.S. trade policies: Canada.
“What they’ve done to our dairy farmworkers is a disgrace,” Trump said as he ordered a sweeping investigation into whether steel imports are harming America’s national security. “We can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.”
Trump admitted he was going off script because the steel order is aimed at more familiar trade boogeymen like China and Japan. But his outburst in the Oval Office toward a friendly neighbor punctuated a week when tough talk on trade took center stage in a White House deeply divided over how aggressively to erect the trade barriers Trump promised during his campaign.
From Trump’s “buy American, hire American” rallying cry in Wisconsin this week to Vice President Mike Pence’s warnings to Japan and South Korea about the need to rewrite trade deals, the Trump administration is moving against free trade on multiple fronts. A senior White House official said there would be two trade-related events a week for the next few weeks.
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“He’s manically focused on these trade issues,” said Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist.
The flurry of activity amounts to a comeback by nationalists like Bannon, who views trade as crucial to Trump’s populist appeal but whose star has dimmed after clashes with globalist-minded aides like Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs banker and lifelong Democrat who is head of the National Economic Council.
The outcome of the debate between nationalists and globalists remains far from settled. Last week the globalists appeared to be winning when the administration decided not to formally designate China a currency manipulator, despite Trump’s vow to do so during the campaign. Trump also offered President Xi Jinping of China other concessions on his trade agenda in return for China’s help in curbing North Korea’s nuclear program.
But the nationalists scored an early victory when Trump fulfilled one major trade promise only three days after taking office. He pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade pact negotiated by President Barack Obama, declaring that the era of multinational trade deals was over.
After that, said Gary Clyde Hufbauer, a senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, the president’s “bark quieted down.” “Now the volume of the bark is going back up,” he said.
“But these are still barks,” he added. “So…