US president Donald Trump has stepped up his protectionist trade agenda by announcing plans for steep new tariffs on imports of steel and aluminium.
The proposal will see overseas steel products face a 25 per cent tariff, with a 10 per cent tariff on aluminium goods. The aim of the move is to reduce the trade deficit in the US, which is the world's biggest importer of steel at present, purchasing four times as much overseas steel as it exports.
This move aligns with the controversial US president's pre-election pledge to rejuvenate the US steel and aluminium industries, which he believes to have been damaged by free trade arrangements and the effect of globalization. However, the announcement has been met with widespread concern that a full-scale trade war could now occur.
Canada's foreign minister Chrystia Freedland has already described the tariff plans as "absolutely unacceptable", with a statement from China's ministry of commerce expressing "grave concern" about the impact of the move. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said the EU "will react firmly and commensurately to defend our interests", implying that retaliatory measures could be likely.
The global stock market has experienced heavy losses since the announcement, due to widespread concerns about the impact that a tariff war could have on global trade volumes and economic performance.
Despite this, President Trump openly welcomed the prospect of a trade war in a statement on Twitter, saying: "When a country (USA) is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good, and easy to win."
Meanwhile, a statement from US speaker of the house Paul Ryan expressed hope that the president "will consider the unintended consequences of this idea and look at other approaches before moving forward".