The US has imposed trade tariffs on UK steel and aluminium, prompting fears of a trade war.
Donald Trump announced in March that he’d impose a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium, with the new rules imposed on the EU, Canada and Mexico.
Trade secretary Liam Fox called the tariffs “absurd”, and Press Association political editor Andrew Woodcock told talkRADIO that the move could put Theresa May’s post-Brexit trade plans in jeopardy.
“Its not good for the UK. It’s a massive headache for Theresa May,” he said.
“It was a big part of [Trump’s] appeal to the blue-collar voters in the rust belt, that he’d stop these imports and get the factories working again.
“He imposed tariffs in March on China which was the main target of his drive, but now he’s extending them to the EU, Canada and Mexico, all of which are supposedly friends of the US.”
Although the British steel industry has shrunk since its heyday, he said that those still working in it could see their jobs at risk if trade with the US became difficult.
“It threatens tens of thousands of jobs. Steel is not a major part of the UK economy like it was in the Sixties and Seventies, but it’s difficult for Theresa May when she’s saying we’re going to get out of the EU and strike up new trade deals around the world,” he added.
It also calls into question her plans to make the US a major trade partner following Brexit.
“The number one trade deal she was looking for was with the USA, but here we have a person in the White House trying to cut off trade with one of Britain’s industries. It doesn’t sit very well with the whole Brexit and global Britain relationship,” said Woodcock.
“The UK government’s initial response was to say we’re close allies with the US and they shouldn’t be imposing these sorts of punitive tariffs on their allies.”
As well as potentially making the UK’s trading future difficult, it also suggested that Trump doesn’t value the US’s relationship with the UK as much as was hoped.
“From Trump’s point of view, it suggests that the special relationship is not primary in his decision-making,” said Woodcock.
“He’s always said ‘America first’, and this is a physical demonstration of what ‘America first’ means.
“He’s more interested in supporting the ailing steel industry in the US over keeping his relationship with Britain.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, who Trump recently visited in France, called the tariffs “illegal”, and there was talk of the UK retaliating by imposing tariffs on imported UK produce.