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US Commerce Secretary Declares “Trade War”

SNA (Tokyo) — US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has a stark message for those who fear that Trump administration policies could lead to a global trade war: He says that the war is already on and now the United States is prepared to join it in earnest.

Speaking on a CNBC television program, Ross declared, “We are in a trade war. We have been for decades. The only difference is that our troops are finally coming to the rampart. We didn’t end up with a trade deficit accidentally.”

US President Donald Trump has been tweeting on the same topic, writing, for example, “We are going to defend our industry & create a level playing field for the American worker. It is time to put #AmericaFirst & #MAGA!”

Much of the timing of this tough talk appears to be related to the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the “Southern White House” at Mar-a-Lago, Florida on April 6 and 7, but China is hardly the only target of the rhetoric. Japan, Germany, and Mexico are also believed to be key targets of the Trump administration when it comes to altering the existing trade relationships.

While the Abe administration’s public response to threats from Washington are likely to be muted for the time being, that certainly isn’t the case for Germany. Federal Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel released a statement on March 31 that said, in part, “The US Government is apparently prepared to provide American companies with unfair competitive advantages over European and other producers, even if such action violates international trade law. WTO rules are the backbone of the international trade system. Knowingly breaching them is a dangerous step.”

Gabriel was responding the initiation of an investigation by the US Commerce Department over the alleged dumping of steel in the US market.

Japan is also among the seven countries whose practices in the steel trade are being criticized by the Commerce Department.