The closely fought by-election behind Donald Trump’s aggressive tariffs

Looking down upon the United States’ largest coke plant in Pennsylvania’s Monongahela Valley it is hard to tell where the belching smoke plumes end and the foreboding storm clouds begin.

The mill stretches for miles along a river, fed by endless trains and boats piled high with coal, its mammoth faded blue US Steel sign looming overhead.

This week Donald Trump delivered on his promise to protect America’s heavy industry with a 25 per cent tariff on steel, and 10 per cent on aluminium, risking a global trade war in the process.

But while allies across the world fumed the US president had much more local concerns in mind, at least in regard to the timing of his announcement.

He was determined to…

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