Trump administration, world financial officials clash over trade

Thu Apr 20, 2017 9:06pm EDT
 
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By Jason Lange and David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration had a simple but stark message for world financial leaders who gathered in Washington on Thursday amid worries about rising U.S. protectionism: fair trade means tit-for-tat tariffs.

Speaking to bankers just hours after the formal start of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings, White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said Washington was prepared to get tougher in the trade arena.

"If you want to insist on having a tariff on a product - which we prefer you not - the president believes that we should treat you in a reciprocal fashion and that we should tax your product coming into the United States," Cohn said. "That is free, that is open, and that is fair."

Asked at the Institute of International Finance about his message for his international counterparts, Cohn said the United States doesn't want to be "taken advantage of" any more.

"The message is simple. We care about the United States of America, we care about economic prosperity, we care about economic growth, we care about trade, we care about being treated fairly," he said.

Earlier at the White House, President Donald Trump signed a directive to study whether steel imports into the United States should be restricted for national security reasons under a law passed in 1962.

Such moves, including a review of "Buy American" rules launched earlier this week, have raised concerns that the Trump administration is looking outside the World Trade Organization for remedies to restrict U.S. imports.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told reporters on Thursday that more needed to be done to make the global trading system fairer and expressed a willingness to work with Trump to do just that.   Continued...

 
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (L) and Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso walk after their meeting during the IMF/World Bank spring meetings in Washington, U.S., April 20, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas