Mexico and Canada warned Donald Trump that letting political slogans dictate trade policy is dangerous economically. But their own responses to the steel and aluminum tariffs going into effect today has been political as well: Shortly after Trump announced the tariffs, Canada and Mexico announced their own politically-targeted taxes for US exports.
Trump has made trade a political issue since he was a presidential candidate. Economists point out that the tariffs defy economic logic. But politically, they are shorthand for the bygone era of American manufacturing might that Trump alludes to with his “Make America Great Again” slogan. That scores points with Trump’s supporters.
What won’t score points with Trump voters? The painful tariffs that Canada and Mexico will use to hurt Trump-leaning states like Wisconsin and Iowa. While Canada and Mexico had been able to largely ignore the president’s protectionist impulses when they were just rants, they are now being dragged down to Trump’s level.