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Trump defiant on tariffs, touts job numbers

Trump defiant on tariffs, touts job numbers
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE on Friday struck a defiant tone as he waved off concerns of a mounting trade dispute with the European Union and other U.S. allies over steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump cast his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum exported to the U.S. from the E.U., Canada and Mexico as a way to level an uneven playing field.

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Financial markets appeared to agree with the tariffs, Trump said, pointing to new employment numbers released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday showing that the economy added 223,000 jobs and the unemployment rate dropping to 3.8 percent.

“We have the lowest numbers of unemployment that we had — is it 50 years?” Trump said.

He also said that leaders in Europe, Canada and Mexico had acknowledged to him in past discussions that their trade arrangements with the U.S. were one-sided. 

“We lose over $100 billion a year with Mexico, we lose many, many billions of dollars to Canada,” Trump said. “All of these countries, including the European Union, they charge five times the tariffs — we don’t charge tariffs, essentially.”

“I want fair trade. I like free trade,” he told reporters. “But I want fair trade. At a minimum, I want fair trade.”

According to the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office, the U.S. runs a $24.6 billion services trade surplus with Canada and a $12.1 billion deficit on goods. That means that the U.S. ultimately runs a $12.5 billion goods and services trade surplus with Canada.

Trump's comments came as his administration continued to face fierce criticism from officials in Canada, Mexico and Europe over the tariffs. 

The U.S. allies responded to the decision by threatening retaliatory duties on American goods, ranging from bourbon to blue jeans, and the European Union opened a case against the U.S. at the World Trade Organization on Friday.

Trump's comments also come as talks with Canada and Mexico to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) sputter.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that he had scrapped a planned trip to Washington to finalize a deal after Vice President Pence demanded that any pact expire after five years.

The steel and aluminum tariffs were symbolic of the stalled talks. The two countries received exemptions from the duties after they were announced in March, because of the ongoing NAFTA negotiations. 

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossConservative justices seem prepared to let Trump proceed with immigrant census plan for now Supreme Court to hear arguments on Trump administration's attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants from census Central Asia is changing: the Biden administration should pay close attention MORE on Thursday said that the talks had not progressed as quickly as the Trump administration had hoped, leading the U.S. to remove the exemptions.

Trump repeated his claim on Friday that NAFTA had allowed Canada and Mexico to take advantage of the U.S. He also appeared to call into question whether the U.S. should enter into another trilateral trade pact with the two countries.

“I wouldn’t mind seeing a separate deal with Canada, where you have one type of product, so to speak, and a separate deal with Mexico,” he said. “These are two different countries.”