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Trump plan for tariffs draws backlash at home and abroad

President Trump's promise to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum has escalated fears of trade wars with allies and others. France’s finance minister said that such tariffs would cause a strong response from the EU. China raised concerns about other countries following the U.S.'s lead. Trump dismissed the criticism, but Republicans also voiced opposition. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fears of trade wars with U.S. allies and other countries are escalating tonight, after President Trump's promise to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum.

    There have been calls for the president to dial back his plan, and the rhetoric and threats are intensifying at home and abroad.

    The news of President Trump's decision made for rocky trading overnight in Asian and European stock markets. It also led to tough words from foreign governments, now that President Trump has announced that he plans to slap a 25 percent tariff on steel imports to the U.S., and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports.

    France's finance minister put Washington on notice:

  • Bruno Le Maire:

    The United States should know that if these unilateral decisions are confirmed, they would call for a strong, coordinated and united response from the European Union. All options are on the table.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    They were backed up by the European Union, which said today that it would be ready to react.

  • Alexander Winterstein:

    The E.U. has been a close security ally to the U.S. for decades. We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with unfair measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    China's Foreign Ministry raised concerns about other countries following the U.S. lead.

  • Hua Chunying:

    The U.S. adopting anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs in hundreds of cases of imported steel and aluminum products is to excessively protect their domestic products. If all countries imitate the U.S. approach, then this would have a grave impact on the global trade order.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And in Canada today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that a tariff would be disruptive.

  • Justin Trudeau:

    That is why we are impressing upon the American administration the unacceptable nature of these proposals that are going to hurt them every bit as much as they will hurt us.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    For his part, President Trump dismissed the criticism.

    In a tweet early this morning, he referenced U.S. trade deficits, and insisted that — quote — "Trade wars are good, and easy to win."

    On CNBC today, his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, defended the decision.

  • Wilbur Ross:

    If we aren't the least- protectionist major country in the world, please tell me, who is? So, what's really been going on is the other countries have been picking away at us, dumping materials in here, subsidizing their industries, and we haven't been fighting back.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But there was opposition building here at home, including among some Republicans. In a statement, Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse called the policy "kooky 18th century protectionism that will jack up prices on American families and kill American jobs. That's what every trade war ultimately does."

    Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has been a dependable ally of the president, joined a GOP backlash. He said it "would lead to the exact opposite outcome of the administration's stated objective, which is to protect American jobs."

    President Trump is expected to formally sign his tariff decision next week. He has not yet announced which countries will be named and which would be exempted.

    Worries about trade wars and interest rates sent Wall Street on more sharp swings. The Dow Jones industrial average fell nearly 400 points, before rebounding. It finished with a loss of 71 points to close at 24538 the Nasdaq rose 77 points, and the S&P 500 added 13. For the week, the Dow lost 3 percent, the Nasdaq fell 1 percent, and the S&P dropped 2 percent.

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