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Trump hits Brazil and Argentina with new steel and aluminium tariffs

By Hugh Wilson

President accuses South American nations of devaluing currencies to take advantage of strong dollar

The US will restore trade tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Brazil and Argentina with immediate effect, Donald Trump said in a tweet.

The US president claims both countries are deliberately overseeing the devaluation of their currencies, making exports to the US more competitive. This hurts US farmers in particular, he said.

“Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies. which is not good for our farmers. Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the tariffs on all steel & aluminum that is shipped into the US from those countries,” he wrote.

Brazil is the third largest exporter of steel to the US, making up 12 per cent of US steel imports. Argentinian steel makes up only 0.5 per cent of the total.

Trump combined the announcement with a now familiar attack on the US Federal Reserve, urging it to cut interest rates and weaken the dollar, making imports less competitive. The Federal Reserve has cut rates three times in 2019, but Trump has made it clear he believes it has not gone far enough. 

“The Federal Reserve should likewise 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 manufactures & farmers to fairly export their goods. Lower Rates & Loosen - Fed!”

Trump’s announcement may surprise Brazil and Argentina, which reached deals in 2018 to be permanently exempted from steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. Central banks in both countries have tried to prop up their ailing currencies in recent months.

FURTHER READING: Trump threatens to hike China tariffs in escalation of trade war tensions

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