Donald Trump is taking his impotent impeachment rage out on familiar territory for him, opening up a new front in South America in his trade wars. The White House announced Monday that it would reimpose steel and aluminum tariffs on Brazil and Argentina in retaliation for “a massive devaluation of their currencies. which is not good for our farmers.”
The tariffs on imported metals from the two countries is effective immediately. In addition to lashing out against the two countries, Trump attacked the Federal Reserve, saying it should “act so that countries, of which there are many, no longer take advantage of our strong dollar by further devaluing their currencies. This makes it very hard for our [manufacturers] & farmers to fairly export their goods. Lower Rates & Loosen—Fed!”
The U.S. is one of Brazil’s largest steel markets, accounting for about $2.6 billion last year for the country, which is suffering a stagnant economy and unemployment above 10%. Likewise, Argentina’s economy is struggling, with high inflation and a plummeting peso. The surprise tariff move shocked leaders in those countries and could complicate efforts to get a deal on the remade North American Free Trade Agreement with the House.
The announcement also contradicts Trump’s own Treasury Department, which reports twice annually on the currency policies of the rest of the world’s major economies, on the lookout for currency manipulation. It’s at least the second time Trump has popped off with the charge against other countries—in August it was China—in contradiction of Treasury’s findings.