Special To The Washington Post.
America's European allies are campaigning to stop President Donald Trump from using national security grounds to slap restrictions on foreign steel imports.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday the administration is ready to take "bold action" to limit imports of steel, even though the Commerce Department's investigation into the supposed national-security risks from relying on imported steel is still ongoing.
Though the administration has touted the action, which could include tariffs or quotas or both, as a move to check China's abusive trade practices, NATO allies are concerned that they'll feel the pinch a lot more than Beijing.
According to a report in the Financial Times, German and Dutch military officials have been pressing Defense Secretary James Mattis to make the case that steel imports from NATO members like Germany and Belgium don't pose a threat to American national security. Reports indicate that Mattis has warned the White House against any rash action on steel.
Berlin is reportedly particularly concerned about a steel dispute could further widen the rift between Europe and the United States, already yawning after Washington's withdrawal from the Paris accord and the U.S. Senate's efforts to tighten sanctions against European firms that do certain kinds of business with Russia.
Chad Bown, a trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, says the Europeans have a point. In a recent study, he found that countries like Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, and Germany - not China - are likely to suffer under Trump's new restrictions. That's because imports of Chinese steel are already covered by existing trade remedies dating back to the turn of the century; almost 10 percent of Chinese goods imported into the United States are subject to some sort of trade restriction, Bown notes, up from 2 percent in 2001.