This Week in Asia

And you thought China is the only country Trump has gone to war with?

China is not the only country Donald Trump is targeting with his trade war - indeed, no American ally is likely to emerge unscathed. And while China may have sufficient muscle to fight its corner, others may not be so lucky.

When he was campaigning to be president, in a seven-point economic plan to "Make America Great Again", Trump had promised to employ Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 as well as Section 201 and Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to punitively sanction countries that had serially run-up trade surplus vis-a-vis the United States (in his view unfairly extracting America's wealth). Trump as president has put each of these tools to use and it's America's allies that have borne the brunt.

On January 22, Trump signed a proclamation under Section 201 of the Trade Act, imposing tariffs on imports of solar cells, modules and manufactured washing machines. The action was the first of its kind in 16 years, with South Korea, China and Vietnam its key intended targets.

On March 23, Trump issued a memorandum listing measures to be initiated against China following a Section 301 investigation of its trade, investment and intellectual property policies and practices. On Friday, a first tranche of tariffs under Section 301 went into effect - the first time it has been so used against a trading partner since the early 1990s.

Canada has in fact taken the lead in filing the most cases against the US. Separately, each of the nine trading partners with grievances has also imposed retaliatory tariffs against Washington. More than US$100 billion of traded goods are subject to unilateral tariffs - the most since the Great Depression. And this number could pale into insignificance if Trump's quarrels with the EU, China and Japan get entirely out of hand.

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (SCMP).

Copyright (c) 2018. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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