Trump’s trade tactics constant

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s combative approach to trade has been one of the main constants among his often-shifting political views. And he’s showing no signs of backing off now, even as the stakes intensify with the threat of a full-blown trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.

The president went after China on Day 1 of his presidential bid, promising to “bring back our jobs from China, from Mexico, from Japan, from so many places.”

Trump’s views on trade helped forge his path to victory in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio, where he linked the loss of manufacturing jobs to the North America Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals. He warned the worst was yet to come with President Barack Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

His trashing of existing and proposed trade agreements grabbed the headlines, but he also made clear his view that globalization had been bad for America and that he would use tariffs to protect national security and domestic producers. He cited the nation’s Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan as leaders whose footsteps he was following when it came to trade and tariffs.

“Our original Constitution did not even have an income tax,” Trump told voters in Monessen, Pennsylvania, some four months before the 2016 presidential election. “Instead, it had tariffs, emphasizing taxation of foreign, not domestic production.”

No. 7 on his list of trade promises in that speech: taking on China for “its theft of American trade secrets.”

“This is so easy. I love saying this. I will use every lawful presidential power to remedy trade disputes, including the application of tariffs consistent” with existing trade laws, Trump said.

Those laws include Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, which Trump cited to enact tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from China, Canada, Mexico and elsewhere.

They also include Section 301 of the Trade Act, which Trump used last year to apply 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods and 10 percent tariffs on $200 billion of goods. That 10 percent was increased to 25 percent on Friday.

Trump is laying the groundwork to extend the 25 percent tariff to all of China’s exports to the U.S.

“Such an easy way to avoid Tariffs? Make or produce your goods and products in the good old USA. It’s very simple!” Trump tweeted on Saturday.

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