‘Trade wars are good’? 3 past conflicts tell a very different story

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These German steel coils may soon become more expensive for U.S. manufacturers.
AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Marc-William Palen, University of Exeter

President Donald Trump renewed fears of a global trade war after he vowed to slap steep tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel.

The tariffs haven’t even been formally proposed, yet other countries are already threatening countermeasures. The European Union, for example, promised to impose tariffs on iconic American products like Harley-Davidsons, Kentucky bourbon and blue jeans, while China, Australia and Canada all promised a response.

Brushing all that aside, the president tweeted that “trade wars are good.”

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But what exactly is a trade war and what are its consequences?

As a historian of trade, I thought it would be worth recalling some illuminating examples, each of which led to disastrous results. Continue reading “‘Trade wars are good’? 3 past conflicts tell a very different story”