Donald Trump said last week that he welcomed a trade war. This week, he will find out if he gets one. And next week he may discover if his initiative to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, motivated as much by domestic politics as by economic policy, will have the intended effect at the ballot box and boost Republican electoral prospects.
This week the United States’ largest trading partners, including Canada, will begin to learn the details of the Trump plan, which White House officials originally insisted would provide no carve-outs or exemptions, even for countries with deep and well-established trade relationships.
But the insight that Allan Gotlieb, Canada’s ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989, added to the permanent wisdom of Washington may apply here and could work to Canada’s benefit: No decision in the American capital ever is final.
By sheer but significant coincidence, the first political test of the Trump tariff gambit comes a week from Tuesday here in the heart of steel country, where voters will fill a vacancy in the House of Representatives in a very close special congressional election that has attracted keen attention from the President, who visited the district six weeks ago and returns Saturday to campaign for Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate. Mr. Saccone, a state representative, has a slender lead in the district, which gave Mr. Trump a 20-point advantage in the 2016 election, over his Democratic rival, Conor Lamb.