If a trade war occurs, what’s certain is there will be no winners, definitely not in the Puget Sound area.

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President Donald Trump’s decision to impose more tariffs on steel and aluminum may be the first shot in the coming trade war with China.

It quickly drew a reaction from Wall Street with the Dow plummeting more than 500 points, plus it alarmed Republican leaders, as well as the Business Roundtable, warning that the tariffs could “result in foreign retaliation against U. S. exporters.”

Previous administrations have increased tariffs, and applied quotas, to protect American steel and aluminum producers, but such actions have been measured, despite the labor unions’ call for more draconian action on the Democratic side. But the “Make America Great Again” president has vowed to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, regardless of the risky policies his administration is pursuing.

In the 2016 presidential election Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders seized on the public angst over closed factories and lost jobs in the rust-belt states, promised to rip up those disastrous trade agreements and blamed China for the economic pain felt throughout America’s heartland. As Robert Zoellick, a former U.S. Trade Representatives, once said, “trade is more about politics than economics.”

Once in the White House, Trump gleefully tore up the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and proceeded to dismantle the NAFTA trade agreement with our close neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Yet in the first year of his presidency, the U.S. trade deficit actually increased 13 percent, now at $345 billion. No bragging rights on this statistic.

However, the president’s rowdy trade actions cannot avoid the reality and consequences. First, the U.S. Constitution. It clearly states that “Congress shall regulate interstate and foreign commerce,” which will limit his statutory authority. Second, his actions on trade are contrary to the Republican Party’s free trade doctrine, championed by Ronald Reagan, and the pro-trade business community.

His administration deputies are desperately searching the policy warehouse, dusting off earlier and somewhat vague laws that would enable him to issue more Executive Orders. While U.S. trade laws are often applied unfairly to China — it is still considered a nonmarket economy — the president’s unwavering punitive actions will likely provoke our largest trade partner to take similar actions against U.S. exporters.

The other battleground involves intellectual property and technology in today’s complex global economy. He is seeking authority, in this case, Section 301 — originally intended to safeguard patent right — to justify the allegations against China’s growing technology influence in the U.S. and beyond. Recently, they pressured AT&T to quash its long-standing plans to roll out a Chinese smartphone. The Chinese company, Huawei, is a world class telecom network provider whose smartphone is ranked number three, behind Apple and Samsung. Huawei had plans to locate its America consumer headquarters in Bellevue. What if Beijing reciprocates, and bans Apple products entering the China market?

Such punishing trade restrictions will likely prompt China to retaliate, so it is not a question of “if” but when and how. Obviously, Beijing is contemplating how best to respond. Do they patiently accept these blistering actions, make adjustments and move on? Or, take their trade disputes to the World Trade Organization but endure a long process for resolving each particular case. Finally, will China take actions as a form of retaliation?

China has already prepared a list of U.S. goods and products that would be subject to import restrictions. At the top of the list is agriculture.

Washington state, more than any other, will feel the brunt should China take retaliatory action. It will not only affect the state’s robust agriculture sector that is increasingly dependent on exports, but also Puget Sound and the state’s other port facilities that do the shipping. Boeing will also have to pay more for the aluminum products that come from China.

A trade war between the world’s two largest economies could have a shattering effect on the world economy. Back in the late 1920s, Herbert Hoover’s campaign pledge to limit imports resulted in the enactment of the Smoot-Hawley Act that recklessly placed higher tariffs on 20,000 imports. Within six months, twenty-six nations retaliated, precipitating the collapse of the world trading system.

Governing by threats is nerve racking — be it the warning of pre-emptive missile attacks on North Korea or ordering harsh actions to punish China. Whether Trump and his counterpart China’s Xi Jinping’s embryonic relationship is sufficient to get us through these troubled times, the president’s actions have caused many to be worried in both countries.

If a trade war occurs, what’s certain is there will be no winners, definitely not in the Puget Sound area.