It’s “Made in America” week at the White House and it seems like President Donald Trump is trying to keep the promises he made on the campaign trail. However, doing so could disrupt a brilliant plan to diminish Russia’s role and influence in the world.
For two years on the campaign trail, Donald Trump frequently invoked saving jobs in manufacturing, coal, and any other industry that was near and dear to the hearts of rust belt voters. It was a smart move. The voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the ones who put Trump over the top on that surprising November night. However, there has always been a healthy skepticism on whether Donald Trump would actually follow through on this promises. The results have been mixed. President Trump certainly talks a good game, but the recent news from Ford and Carrier that jobs may not be saved after all show it’s sometimes more style than substance. Steel tariffs could be Trump’s first substantive action to protect a specific domestic industry. Unfortunately, that same decision could have devastating consequences from a national security standpoint.
President Donald Trump has been complaining of steel dumping, focusing mostly on China, since even before he announced he was running for President. Normally when it comes to enacting tariffs, the argument is always based on economics. However, the current debate in the White House is actually a national security one. Currently, there is a 232 investigation into steel dumping, a kind of trade investigation to determine the effect of imports on national security. Advocates for tariffs argue that dumping of foreign steel in the domestic markets could cause American steel producers to go out of business. This would then put us at a disadvantage in a time of crisis. However, even if this is true, the global implications of steel tariffs could still make us less safe.
Thanks to their hatred of President Donald Trump, Democrats are finally waking up to the geopolitical threat that Russia poses to the United States. America’s pullback from both Europe and the Middle East under Obama mixed with Russia’s extensive energy supply have made Russia an unfortunate partner to many. The absence of America’s allows a vacuum that competitors like Russia will fill. Luckily, this is fixable.
First, America needs to reassert it’s position of leadership in both regions. Second, the United States needs to use it’s ever expanding energy supply to limit Russia’s. Larry Kudlow and Elliot Kaufman recently published articles at The National Review arguing that President Donald Trump was setting the stage to expand energy exports to more countries in Europe. Many of these countries are forced to work with Russia to keep the lights on. Expanding our energy presence in Europe would not only put a hurt on Putin’s wallet it would severely limit the pressure he can exert on the continent. This seems like a pretty good plan. Unfortunately, the entire thing could be derailed by Trump’s “Made in America” attitude.
In 2002 President George W Bush implemented steel tariffs in an attempt to help save the domestic steel industry. The results were disastrous. 200,000 people lost their jobs in steel reliant industries which equated to 4 billion dollars in lost wages. This data, however, came out much later. The reason President Bush and his administration decided to pull back on the tariffs was the retaliatory plans of trading parties in response to our tariffs. Mark Tran of the Guardian explains “Mr Bush made his decision just days before a deadline that would have triggered retaliation from the EU, which was preparing to impose sanctions worth $2.2bn (£1.3bn) on US goods ranging from Florida citrus products to Harley Davidson motorbikes.”
Herein lies the problem. If America imposes broad steel tariffs again, we could see our ability to export natural gas and extend our influence in Europe facing a significant roadblock. In order to build the necessary infastructure, we need to be working openly with the Europe Union. The EU will be far less likely to back these costly infrastructure projects if they see it as a lopsided negotiation. We need to ask ourselves a question. Is propping up America’s steel industry worth hurting our economy and allowing Russia to maintain dominance in Europe? I think most Americans would say no.