(Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump’s decision to revive tariffs on metals from Brazil and Argentina highlights the risks to a U.S.-China trade deal and shows that “no one is safe from Tariff Man.”
That’s according to Cowen analyst Chris Krueger, who had a few more take-aways from the levies: Currency wars are “alive and well,” he wrote in a note to clients, as Trump displays “grievance policy-making 101.” The renewed tariffs also underscore issues arising at the World Trade Organization next week, as an appeals panel will cease to function starting Dec. 11, rendering its dispute settlement system inoperative.
The Brazil and Argentina actions, together with past threats of tariffs on Mexican goods for immigration issues and on Turkey for currency devaluation, offer “further examples of the deal default risk (and potential for loss of face) in dealings with the Trump administration,” Krueger wrote. “This is just one more arrow in the quiver for hawks in Beijing to try and shoot down a deal.”
Krueger added that “there is not even a pretense of ‘national security’ with these tariffs.” The action is “ripe for retaliation and threatens to reshape currency relationships and the rules of the game for foreign exchange markets,” he said.
While the “Brazil and Argentina tariff reintroductions are relatively minor,” Vital Knowledge’s Adam Crisafulli wrote separately in a note, “investors are worrying about precedent (and alarmed by Trump’s understanding of global FX markets and central bank policy that’s at best quite reductive).”
Crisafulli added that “if Trump is about to embark on a campaign of tariffs aimed at countries accused of devaluing their currencies, there could be plenty more targets.” At the same time, he noted that Trump is “cognizant of November 2020 and the need to ensure a healthy economy for at least another 11 months” — which means any trade initiatives “should stay minor.”
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