Trump gov’t warns officials on trade tariffs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration had a simple but stark message for world financial officials: fair trade means tit-for-tat tariffs.

Speaking to bankers in Washington for the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings, White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Washington would get tougher in the trade arena.

“If you want to insist on having a tariff on a product — which we prefer you not — the president believes that we should treat you in a reciprocal fashion and that we should tax your product coming into the United States,” Cohn said.

“That is free, that is open and that is fair.”

Asked at the Institute of International Finance about his message, Cohn said the United States doesn’t want to be “taken advantage of” any more.

Earlier at the White House, Trump signed a directive to study whether steel imports into the U.S. should be restricted for national security reasons under a law passed in 1962.

Such moves, including a review of “Buy American” rules, have raised concerns that the administration is looking outside the World Trade Organization for ways to restrict U.S. imports.

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