Inside Story

Will Donald Trump’s tariffs decision trigger global trade war?

Trump has said the US will impose tariffs on steel imports, potentially leading to a global trade war.

US President Donald Trump says he will impose costly tariffs on imported steel and aluminium. He says it is to protect US producers.

His plan has sparked outrage around the globe, with investors spooked and stocks taking a dive.

Eight countries, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, Russia and Brazil, all sold one million tonnes, or more, of steel products to the US in 2016.

The world’s top steel producer, China, is not among them. But it is one of the leading exporters of aluminium to the US, which now imports about 90 percent of its domestic needs.

The EU says Trump’s tariffs move amounts to protectionism and is vowing to take action to defend its interests. China is calling on the White House to exercise restraint in applying the charges.

But Trump tweeted that trade wars are good and “easy to win”.

So how close are we to all-out trade conflict?

Presenter: Elizabeth Puranam


Philippe Legrain – Former special adviser to the director-general of the World Trade Organization

Einar Tangen – Investment banker who regularly advises the Chinese government on economic and development issues

Joe Watkins – Republican political strategist who served as a White House aide to President George HW Bush