June 3, 2018 11:27 am

In angering his closest allies, Trump is ‘probably strengthening China’s hand’: U.S. trade rep

National Foreign Trade Council president and former WTO and USTR official Rufus Yerxa tells Eric Sorensen history shows when countries try economic nationalism, the action has failed to produce positive results.

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President Donald Trump’s decision to impose punishing new tariffs on Canadian exports will only make it less likely that he’ll be able to negotiate a fairer trading relationship with China, says a top U.S. trade representative.

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Rufus Yerxa, president of the U.S. National Foreign Trade Council, spoke with Global News’ Eric Sorensen on Friday, and said the move to slap new levies on aluminum and steel from Canada, Mexico and the European Union “is definitely not a blip.”

“Most U.S. manufacturers and U.S. industry don’t support this action by our own administration,” said Yerxa, who represents a huge alliance of companies and industry sectors across the United States.

He is also a former deputy director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We’re very concerned about the retaliation against our own exports, but also how this will raise manufacturing costs for industries from autos, to oil and gas, to the food products industry.”

WATCH: Canada threatening U.S. with tariffs on nearly $13B worth of goods

As U.S. allies push back against Trump’s protectionist measures, he added, the president will find himself battling for fairer trade with China without the advantage of support from other countries on the international stage.

“Really, it’s probably strengthening China’s hand,” Yerxa said. “This notion that the U.S. has been a victim, I mean we’re one of the great beneficiaries of the global economy.”

READ MORE: Trump takes another swipe at Canada’s ‘trade barriers,’ treatment of U.S. farmers

The worst-case scenario for companies and individuals on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border would be a further escalation of the burgeoning trade war, he told Sorensen. As countries start closing their markets more and more, global supply chains are disrupted, and in the end, American workers will “suffer enormously.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Friday that Canada is “always ready to talk,” but Ottawa has already announced dollar-for-dollar countermeasures and is challenging the U.S. tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement and at the WTO.

WATCH: Trump says Canada takes advantage of U.S. economically

Overall, Yerxa said, the kind of protectionism being touted by the Trump administration — promoted as a way to “put America first” and save American jobs — is doomed to fail.

“History is littered with examples of countries that tried this kind of economic nationalism … and it has repeatedly failed to produce positive results,” he said.

“The last time the U.S. tried it was in the 1930s and that was obviously a disaster.”

— Watch the full interview with Rufus Yerxa above.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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