U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to the media as he is greeted by Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau during the G7 official welcome at Le Manoir Richelieu on day one of the G7 meeting on June 8, 2018 in Quebec City, Canada. Leon Neal / Getty Images
Leon Neal / Getty Images

The retaliatory tariffs the White House said wouldn’t happen are happening

Four months ago today, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro appeared on the Fox Business Network to defend Donald Trump’s policy on tariffs. Asked about international retaliation, Navarro, speaking from the White House press briefing room, said, “I don’t believe any country in the world is going to retaliate.”

How’s that working out?

Canada announced billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. on Friday in a tit-for-tat response to the Trump administration’s duties on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government released the final list of items that will be targeted beginning July 1. Some items will be subject to taxes of 10 or 25 percent… The taxes on items including ketchup, lawn mowers and motor boats amount to $12.6 billion.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland characterized the tariffs as regrettable, but said the country didn’t have much of a choice. “We will not escalate and we will not back down,” she said.

In case anyone’s forgotten, Trump imposed new tariffs against Canada claiming a national-security exception to the rules-based order the United States helped write. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “inconceivable” that Canada “could be considered a national security threat,” and Trump later conceded, perhaps accidentally, that his rationale was a fraud.

The European Union, meanwhile, has already announced retaliatory tariffs of its own, targeting U.S. steel, agricultural and other products, “including bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and orange juice.” Those tariffs are scheduled to take effect this month.

“I don’t believe any country in the world is going to retaliate”? This from the man who has the president’s ear on trade policy. No wonder Trump thinks trade wars are “good and easy to win.”

Postscript: Just for kicks, let’s again note how Peter Navarro entered the president’s orbit. Vanity Fair  reported last year, “At one point during the campaign, when Trump wanted to speak more substantively about China, he gave Kushner a summary of his views and then asked him to do some research. Kushner simply went on Amazon, where he was struck by the title of one book, Death by China, co-authored by Peter Navarro. He cold-called Navarro, a well-known trade-deficit hawk, who agreed to join the team as an economic adviser.”