KU News Service

Trump move to impose tariffs on steel, aluminum could be first shot in trade war, international trade law expert says

Thu, 03/01/2018

LAWRENCE — President Donald Trump announced today the United States will impose tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum, a move he deemed necessary to right trade deficits and that others have claimed could be the opening of a trade war. The countries to which the 25 percent tariff for steel and 10 percent tariff for aluminum would apply were not identified.

The moves came as steel and aluminum executives met with the administration at the White House. International trade law expert Raj Bhala of the University of Kansas School of Law said the move goes beyond trying to balance trade.

“The tariffs mean more than whacking foreign steel and aluminum imports with 25 and 10 percent tariffs, respectively. Deploying Section 232 is the most aggressive unilateral trade move President Trump has made, and very possibly the start of a trade war. Surely this scenario was not what President Kennedy had in mind when he signed the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which contains Section 232,” Bhala said.

Bhala, the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor in the KU School of Law, is available to discuss the moves with media and can speak about tariffs, trade, steel and aluminum, possible responses from other nations, trade wars, tariffs as a trade strategy, effects of trade retaliation on the U.S. economy and related topics.

Experts have said nations like China could respond to the move by imposing tariffs on U.S. products like bourbon, cheese, agricultural products or Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Bhala has studied tariffs and international trade deals for decades and has written dozens of books and journal articles, including “TPP Objectively: Law, Economics and National Security of History’s Largest, Longest Free Trade Agreement,” the textbook “Modern GATT Law,” “International Trade Law” and “Understanding Islamic Law (Shari’a).” He has worked in more than 25 countries and practiced international banking law at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York before entering academia.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at 785-864-8860 or

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