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A trade war is no way to treat our friends

President Donald Trump is due to meet with

President Donald Trump is due to meet with allied nations at the G-7 summit in Canada on Friday. Credit: Getty Images / Pool

President Donald Trump’s mistaken assertion that Canada burned down the White House in 1814 is minor compared with his confusion over the trade relationship with our northern neighbor.

The president recently imposed sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, fulfilling a campaign promise. He claims these unfair trade practices cost American jobs and somehow create a national security risk by weakening producers. On Friday, he will face our angry allies at the G-7 conference in Quebec, a face-to-face battle in what could become a destructive trade war.

Let’s hope Trump can get things straight. Almost 70 percent of the steel used in the United States already is produced here, and our nation can never be self-sufficient in aluminum production because the bauxite used to make the metal is not mined here. So Trump’s national security justification is so laughable that Republicans who have been willing to stick by Trump through every other blunder are ready to work with Democrats to block these tariffs by holding military spending hostage. And experts say nearly all unfair dumping on the metals market is done by China, not Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Enraged, our trading partners in North America, Europe and Japan say they will respond to our tariffs by levying their own on a wide range of goods and services produced in the United States. Such a trade war would make products from other countries more expensive for U.S. consumers and products from America more expensive in other countries. Americans would face job losses and higher prices.

Trump is right to assail China for unfair trade, but doing the same with our closest allies is a mistake. It will cost this nation the trust of its friends — without gaining it a thing. 

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