A tool Bush also used in 2002

WASHINGTON • Protectionism is a tool that has been employed by Mr Donald Trump's predecessors, including Republican President George W. Bush who on March 5, 2002, announced punitive tariffs on steel imports to protect American steel makers.

Still, that approach has shown mixed results.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled against the US move in 2003, and the Bush administration ultimately withdrew its measure of 30 per cent tariffs on most imports of steel, citing an improving economy and cost-cutting efforts by domestic steel makers.

The announcement of his decision immediately led the European Union to drop its plan to retaliate with tariffs on a variety of American exports from states vital to Mr Bush's political fortunes, including Florida and Michigan, the New York Times reported.

Despite hopes within the industry that the tariffs would be lifted gradually or that steel companies would receive additional government help in offsetting the costs of union health and pension benefits, Mr Bush announced no new steps to aid or protect steel makers and their workers.

Mr Bush's decision to abandon the tariffs was welcomed by advocates of unfettered trade and by representatives of states and industries that were paying the price for the trade protection in the form of higher steel prices.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'A tool Bush also used in 2002'. Print Edition | Subscribe