Donald Trump has announced a swathe of new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports to the US, in the latest protectionist demarche from the White House that will raise already heightened fears of a global trade war.
The President said on Thursday that steel imports face a 25 per cent levy while aluminium will be marked up by 10 per cent from next week.
The move was unveiled at a meeting of US metal industry representatives.
“You’ll have protection for a long time. You’ll have to regrow your industries, that’s all I’m asking,” Mr Trump told them.
“People have no idea how badly our country has been mistreated.”
During the presidential election campaign in 2016, Mr Trump continually railed against what he claimed was the dumping of cheap Chinese steel on American markets – and promised to take retaliatory action to protect US steel jobs.
China has indicated that it could retaliate against US tariffs on its steel exports by targeting imports of American agricultural produce to China, such as soybeans.
The latest move by Donald Trump follows a decision in January by the US to impose tariffs of up to 50 per cent on imports of washing machines and solar panels from China and South Korea.
The US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the World Economic Forum last month that the US was “coming to the ramparts” to protect itself, in what he said was an already raging global trade war.
The US tariffs would adversely impact the UK’s struggling steel industry.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Business Secretary Greg Clark and the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox have made private representations to Washington about the issue.
Brexiteers have been pinning their hopes on securing a new free trade deal with the Trump White House, despite its protectionism, after the UK leaves the European Union.
Employment in American steel plants has been falling since the 1960s, but economic studies suggest most of this is due to productivity improvements by manufacturers rather than competition from cheap imports, suggesting there is little likelihood that protectionist measures will actually help to bring back jobs.