‘We are in a trade war,’ Trump’s commerce secretary says after stern German warning

By Max Ehrenfreund

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel attend the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin on March 29. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

Germany’s foreign minister on Friday morning said the Trump administration is taking a “dangerous step” after the commerce department announced a tariff on imports of foreign steel, indicating the tax could become a new source of conflict with the powerful U.S. ally and trading partner.

The strongly worded statement from German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel further intensified trade tensions between the United States and international officials since President Trump took office. Although Trump’s actions on trade so far have been modest and have in many respects preserved the status quo, the president and his advisers have hinted at more disruptive measures in the future, and Gabriel claimed that the administration was abandoning established international principles of free trade.

“The U.S. Government is apparently prepared to provide American companies with unfair competitive advantages over European and other producers, even if such action violates international trade law,” Gabriel’s statement read. “I very much fail to comprehend the decision.”

Gabriel is objecting to the Trump administration’s conclusions following an investigation into the pricing of certain types of steel plate from Germany, as well as from Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The Commerce Department’s findings, announced Thursday, allow the administration to begin collecting tariffs ahead of a final determination expected in May.

“You have to think about it this way: We are in a trade war,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Friday. “We have been for decades.”

The order on Germany relates to a pair of executive actions on trade that Trump says he plans to sign Friday, including a review of U.S. trade policy.

Those actions will instruct the administration to identify areas in which foreign …read more