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Trump defends tariff plan, says ‘trade wars are good’ as markets drop



President Donald Trump on Friday defended his controversial plan to slap huge tariffs on imported steel and aluminum amid intense GOP criticism and a growing global backlash, saying “trade wars are good, and easy to win” as international markets braced for more losses.

“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,” Trump tweeted early Friday. “Example, when we are down $100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don’t trade anymore — we win big. It’s easy!”

A short time later, he returned to add, “We must protect our country and our workers.”

“Our steel industry is in bad shape. IF YOU DON’T HAVE STEEL, YOU DON’T HAVE A COUNTRY!” he said.

Trump’s morning tweets were in reference to his announcement Thursday that the U.S. would levy tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum — a move that prompted fierce criticism from Republicans in Congress and dire warnings of retaliation from the country’s trading partners, as well as led markets to tank.

Key players on Capitol Hill, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, were not given any heads up about Trump’s tariff announcement, and many broke ranks with Trump in an unprecedented way, with one after another coming forward during the day to caution about the dangers of tariffs and plead with Trump to hold off on any action.

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., slammed Trump’s concept of a “good” trade war in a statement Friday, and said fighting one would only lead to “so much losing.”

“Trade wars are never won. Trade wars are lost by both sides. Kooky 18th century protectionism will jack up prices on American families — and will prompt retaliation from other countries,” Sasse said. “Make no mistake: If the president goes through with this, it will kill American jobs — that’s what every trade war ultimately does. So much losing.”

Canada, a close U.S. ally and large trading partner, said Thursday that it viewed “any trade restrictions on Canadian steel and aluminum as absolutely unacceptable.” The nation’s minister of foreign affairs warned that her country could “take responsive measures to defend its trade interests and workers.”

The prospects of a trade war pushed the Dow down over 400 points at the close of trading on Thursday — and the decline continued into Friday’s session. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 300 points, or 1.2 percent, in morning trading, before rallying to end the day down 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite indexes both closed the day in positive territory after suffering losses earlier.

Trump’s decision, however, earned praise from at least one corner.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has been a proponent of tariffs and helped engineer the meeting that led to Trump’s surprise announcement on the actions, told CNBC that the controversy surrounding the tariffs was just “hysteria” and “a lot to do about nothing.”

In an unusual interview with the network that involved props, Ross, holding up at one point a can of Campbell’s Soup and at another point a can of Coca-Cola, claimed that the potential price increases on consumer products that could result from the steel and aluminum tariffs would be “no big deal.”

“Well I just bought this can today at a 7-Eleven down here, and the price was $1.99, so who in the world is going to be too bothered by six-tenths of a cent?” he said, holding up the Campbell’s can.

Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in brief comments to reporters Friday morning, acknowledged that some details still “needed to be finalized” on the plan, but said Trump remained “pretty committed” to his announcement.

When asked about Trump’s supporting the idea of a trade war on Twitter, Sanders replied that the “president is still focused on long-term economic fundamentals” and “incredibly focused on the American worker and feels like both the steel and aluminum industry are both the backbone of this country.”

She also dismissed reports that Gary Cohn, the White House’s top economic adviser, could leave his position in protest of the administration’s tariff plan.

“I don’t have any reason to think otherwise right now,” she said, when asked whether Cohn would leave.

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Corbyn sides with CHINA as he launches attack on Boris's alliance with US and Australia



JEREMY CORBYN sparked uproar after siding with China in a row over Britain’s new defence pact with the United States and Australia.

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Angry French ambassador shows true colours by reminding Biden about naval victory over UK



BREXIT Britain’s newly forged defence deal with Australia and the US infuriated French Ambassador to America, Philippe Etienne, who took a bitter swipe at his transatlantic allies.

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China, France furious at new U.S. security alliance with Britain, Australia



HONG KONG — America’s new security alliance with Britain and Australia was always likely to be greeted with fury by China, the unspoken target of Washington’s latest effort to reinforce its influence in the region.

And it was. But the pact also incensed France, a longtime ally that felt its Indo-Pacific interests had been torpedoed by the submarine-centered agreement.

At a news briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Zhao added that any regional alliance “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”

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In a briefing before Wednesday evening’s announcement, a Biden administration official stressed that the pact “is not aimed at any one country.”

But the AUKUS deal comes as the U.S. steps up its efforts to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology that the U.S. had only previously shared with Britain. The pact also allows for greater collaboration between the three countries on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence, as well as in other areas.

It will also make Australia the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines, after the U.S., Britain, France, China, India and Russia. Unlike those other countries, Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

“The U.S. has only ever shared this technology with the U.K., so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge,” said Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, in a statement shared with NBC News.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been in a downward spiral, with the U.S. ally emerging as a key bulwark in the West’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence.

China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, has embarked on a trade war in return.

There now appears little prospect for improved ties, which the Australian government will have taken into consideration, according to Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“I think China will probably increase the pressure on us as a result of this, but frankly we need to do this in order to ensure our security,” he said.

But it’s not just China that was irked by the deal.

France also expressed outrage after the agreement brought its own deal to build submarines for Australia, inked in 2016, to an abrupt end.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly voiced their displeasure in a joint statement.

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” they said, “shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A visibly angry Le Drian later described the announcement as “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he added. “This is not done between allies.”

Australia signed a 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion.Naoya Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun via AP file

Parly said Thursday that the government would try to minimize the financial impact of the canceled deal on submarine manufacturer Naval Group, which is mostly state-owned.

Asked whether France would seek compensation from Australia, she did not rule it out.

Being sidelined by the new alliance was a “big disappointment” for French trade, according to Frédéric Charillon, a political science professor at France’s Clermont Auvergne University.

“But, what is probably more worrying now is…the lack of confidence that is now growing between the Biden administration and at least some of the European alliance, including France,” he said.

Washington appears to be fueling “the impression that maybe the new administration (is) not that different from the last,” Charillon added.

In New Zealand opposition leaders questioned why Australia’s neighbor and close ally had been left out of the loop.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her government had not been approached as part of the pact, “nor would I expect us to be.”

But she added that any nuclear-powered submarines Australia acquired would not be allowed in the country’s territorial waters, since its longstanding nuclear-free policy forbids the entry of vessels powered by nuclear energy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that in spite of the hard feelings among both rivals and some allies, this was simply an opportunity his country couldn’t turn down.

The advantages of nuclear submarines were clear, he said: “They’re faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity.”

“Australians would expect me as prime minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe and to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can,” he added. “And that is what I have done.”

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Chantal Da Silva reported from Toronto.

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