Today’s edition of trade whack-a-mole features two new tariff developments.
First, you know those special steel and aluminum tariffs that were supposed to go into effect today? Well, they did, but not quite as much as originally announced. In a last-minute reprieve, President Trump temporarily suspended the tariffs on imports from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and European Union member countries.
The grace period, which lasts until May 1, 2018, is intended to accommodate discussions with those countries addressing the adverse effects of their steel and aluminum exports on United States national security. From other news reports I’ve seen, the U.S. may be seeking some kind of voluntary restraint agreements that would cap import volumes. Perhaps we’ll see the Art of the Deal applied in practice.
Second, the long-anticipated results of the “Section 301” investigation of Chinese intellectual property practices have been issued by the Office of the United States Trade Representative. Not surprisingly, the investigation found massive intellectual property theft and abuse by China, resulting in President Trump’s directive that USTR shall prepare a “hit list” of products that may be subject to additional tariffs.
That list, along with proposed tariff rates, is due in 15 days, leaving plenty of time for negotiations and possible deferrals of action. Be ready for more reality TV-like cliffhangers.