Friday, June 1, 2018

What did Donald Trump do today?

He formally put into action his finding that Canada, the European Union, and Mexico were threats to American national security.

The Constitution makes tariffs and other taxes a legislative matter, so as president, Trump has no inherent power to impose tariffs without Congress's permission. (Judging from the mood of Congressional Republicans on the subject, he would not get it.) But under existing law, Trump does have the authority to impose tariffs if failing to do so would pose a threat to national security

At 12:00 A.M. today, an order finding such a national security threat was posed by Canada, Mexico, and the European Union countries went into effect, making them subject to Trump's previous order imposing taxes of 25% on steel imports and 10% on aluminum. 

As is usually the case in trade wars, retaliation has been swift. The United States' diplomatic and military allies, in particular Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, noted the absurdity of being labeled as threats to American national security. Trump lashed back at Trudeau, once again insisting on Twitter that Canada has a trade surplus with the United States. (In reality, exactly the opposite is true, but either way Trump seems unable to understand that money spent in other countries is not somehow lost forever.)

In other diplomatic news today, Trump enthused about a novelty-sized letter from Kim Jong-un delivered to him during a lengthy Oval Office meeting by North Korea's intelligence chief, and suggested he was anxious to relax sanctions against North Korea. His White House also leaked the news that talks have begun about a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin

Why should I care about this?

  • Canada is not a threat to the national security of the United States.
  • Alienating military and diplomatic allies is a threat to the United States.
  • Presidents should treat the United States' closest allies better than they treat hostile rogue states.