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Trump Tariffs Spark Retaliation Plans; Populist Italy Five Star Movement Has Lead ahead of Vote; Awards Season Ends under Cloud of Abuse Allegations. Aired 12mn-12:30a ET

Aired March 3, 2018 - 00:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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CYRIL VANIER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Jeans, motor bikes and whiskey: the European Union gets ready to target American products if Donald Trump follows through on his trade tariffs.

Plus hundreds of thousands of people without power. A massive winter storm sweeps across the northeastern United States.

And with the Oscars around the corner, how will Hollywood make room at the awards show for the #MeToo movement?

Welcome, welcome. Great to have you with us. I'm Cyril Vanier, live from CNN HQ here in Atlanta.

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VANIER: So countries around the world are now threatening to retaliate if the United States imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, as U.S. President Donald Trump has promised.

The European Union is getting ready to target quintessentially American products: Harley-Davidson motorbikes, Bourbon whiskey, Levi's jeans. And even as it gears up for a trade war, the European Commission warns protectionism is not the answer.

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ALEXANDER WINTERSTEIN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION: We strongly regret this step which appears to represent a greater intervention to protect U.S. domestic industry and not to be based on any national security justification.

We will not sit idly while our industry is hit with (INAUDIBLE) measures that put thousands of European jobs at risk. The E.U. will act firmly and commensurately to defend our interests.

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VANIER: Canada calls the tariffs unacceptable. The prime minister says, in the long run, the move will hurt the U.S.

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JUSTIN TRUDEAU, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: The Americans have a significant trade surplus with us on steel, which means we buy steel from them; they buy steel from us. The integrated nature of our supply chains means that there would be significant disruption in Canada, obviously, but also in the United States.

But that's why we are impressing upon the American administration the unacceptable nature of these proposals that are going to hurt them every bit as much as they will hurt us. And we are confident that we're going to continue to be able to defend Canadian industry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VANIER: One person who does not seem worried, U.S. President Donald Trump. He tweeted, "Trade wars are good and easy to win."

So how would these tariffs work and what would they mean for workers in the U.S. and around the world?

CNN's Tom Foreman breaks it down.

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TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Take a look at the numbers here. The United States imports about a third of all the raw steel it uses and more than 90 percent of all the aluminum it uses. And these proposed tariffs would push up the cost of that 25 percent and 10 percent respectively.

That's money that would have to be paid by the foreign companies that wanted to get their products onto U.S. soil. So yes, if it became more expensive for them, it could help U.S. producers of steel and aluminum by making them more competitive, especially since they have complained for years about unfair practices overseas anyway.

But what about all the companies that rely on that raw material to make cars and airplanes and equipment and aluminum cans and appliances?

What about those companies?

Because now they would face a different supply chain where there may be shortages, there may be higher prices. And that could affect an awful lot of people in other fields. One estimate has it that more than 80 times as many people work making stuff out of that raw material than in producing the raw material.

Those people would now potentially face uncertain wages, uncertain hours, maybe more offshoring, not to mention what would happen with consumers out there. One estimate says some products in some places could go up by 15 percent.

I don't think we really know that but we do know that there's uncertainty about the consumer market and what the impact would be.

Here is another question, though.

Does this actually get at the trade practices of other countries?

Does it strike a blow for that?

It depends on who you are talking about and how this would actually be applied because we don't have the details yet. This is where the United States gets its foreign steel, from Canada, the biggest supplier, then Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, Russia and so forth.

You know who is not on the top 10 though?

China, the country that the United States, the president has said so many years is not being a fair trading partner out there. This is the one that President Trump has said he wants to get at.

Would this get at them?

It might but the numbers suggest only after it had an impact on a lot of long-standing trade allies and possibly unleashed a trade war with very uncertain outcomes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VANIER: President Trump has also gone after the World Trade Organization, calling it a disaster for the United States. A former director general of the WTO, Pascal Lamy, tells our Richard Quest that a trade --

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VANIER: -- war will backfire.

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PASCAL LAMY, FORMER DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WTO: The reality is that Mr. Trump wants to protect more of the U.S. steel industry, which obviously is not very competitive, and this will lead to U.S. consumers and other industrial sectors paying more for uncompetitive steel.

At the end of the day, nobody, at least on this side of the Atlantic, believes it's a good thing for the U.S. It's a bad thing. It will backfire as it did in the past.

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VANIER: Let's bring in Peter Matthews, he's a political analyst and professor of political science at Cypress College.

Peter, good to have you back with us.

Are trade wars really easy to win?

PETER MATTHEWS, CYPRESS COLLEGE: No, they're not. I think President Trump was way off when he said that. Going back to the 1930s, the Smoot-Hawley tariff, we find that very bad repercussions can occur internationally.

We don't need to have trade wars and to put tariffs up on these products. They have a globalized economy. The better way to do it is to do what China does. China subsidizes the steel industry there to make it less expensive to export the Chinese steel to other parts of the world.

The United States should actually have an industrial policy, where we would actually support the steel industry to export our steel to other the countries. Germany does the same thing. The countries are successful in having a balance of trade surplus, have their governments supported the industries much more actively and the bottom line in the end is also equalizing wages across the board.

That will help countries grow in a better way. This tariff idea is a terrible idea in my view and it will result in a trade war.

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VANIER: And not just in your view; essentially, apart from the U.S. steel and aluminum industry, I can't think of anybody who has voiced support from this -- for this, even within the White House.

Gary Cohen, Mr. Trump's chief economic adviser, is said to have been staunchly against this. He warned that he might leave if these tariffs were indeed imposed. Obviously we saw the rest of the world reacting to this.

So let's look at the politics of this then. We've addressed the substance. This is something on which the president has been remarkably consistent, starting from his days as a businessman to the campaign and now to the White House, this issue of trade.

Assuming he actually implements those tariffs, how do you think this plays out for him politically?

MATTHEWS: Politically, it will certainly solidify his base, which are the 32 percent of the super nationalists, who believe that America first is the best w to go. He'll get those people to vote for him again. But that's not going to win him the next election. And that's a problem politically. He thinks he's going to be able to do that unless someone -- and since there's a split vote in the opposition, there are more than two candidate, maybe three candidates running, he might be able to hang onto his base and win.

But this is a losing strategy politically as well as economically. I would advise him to actually change directions and work in a better way for fair trade.

VANIER: But the thing is, he'll be able to point to the fact that he kept his promise, right, as he's done on a number of important things, rolling back regulations, cutting taxes and imposing tariffs. Those were all parts of his campaign and he has kept his promise -- if he implements the tariffs, of course.

MATTHEWS: He will claim that, of course. But the question is, what kind of rewards will he get for that?

Will that mean that more of America will actually support him?

And look at how many people are affected; 80:1 ratio in terms of how many workers there are in the industries that would be hurt versus the ones that benefit. So we saw those numbers in your earlier part of the report.

So I don't think that it's going to really help him get more political support than what he has right now, 32 percent, 33 percent, 34 percent. That's not a winning number in the end.

VANIER: Do you think he can be talked out of it?

MATTHEWS: You know something?

He flips and flops quite a bit on issues. He was just for gun control yesterday and today he's against it.

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VANIER: That's why I asked the question.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I don't think he can be talked out of it but he might make up his own mind based on some whim and fancy. That's quite remarkable to have a president do this, inconsistent. It's causing havoc and even the stock market is having trouble.

His own supporters in the corporate sector are really upset with him for that. So I don't know what he intends to gain other than solidifying his 32 percent or so of the support that he already has. So I don't know how to answer that question, other than saying we really don't know.

He can't be talked out of it. It depends on what he wants to do on a whim and fancy, basically.

VANIER: Yes. And this appears to be something that's really close to his heart, something that he feels strongly about because he's been talking about it for years. Peter Matthews, thank you very much for joining us on the show once again. Thanks.

MATTHEWS: Thank you, Cyril.

VANIER: Trade wars notwithstanding, it's been a chaotic week at the White House. Chief of staff John Kelly says the administration's handling of classified material was not up to his standards.

This comes as "The New York Times" reports another bombshell, that President Trump asked Kelly to help remove his daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from the White House.

Mr. Trump is said to be upset that Kushner's security clearance was downgraded while officials from four nations discussed how to manipulate him. And the president was also reportedly unimpressed -- [00:10:00]

VANIER: -- by Ivanka's trip to South Korea last week.

Moving on from politics now. The U.S. is urging citizens to reconsider travel to Burkina Faso in West Africa after a series of deadly attacks. Authorities say gunmen targeted a military headquarters, the French embassy and a French cultural center in the capital, Ouagadougou, on Friday. At least eight people were killed and more than 80 were injured.

The government says those killed were security personnel. And several attackers were also neutralized. This is the third major assault in the capital in about two years. France has a military presence in Burkina Faso as part of an operation against jihadists in the West African region.

Still ahead on the show, Europe nervously watching the rise of far right politicians in Italy as voters there prepare to cast ballots in Sunday's general election. We'll have more on that.

And we'll have more on the northeastern U.S., which is bracing for more floods and high tides from a brutal winter bomb cyclone. We're tracking the forecast to see if there's an end in sight. Stay with us.

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VANIER: Italian voters go to the polls on Sunday in the hopes of electing a functional government. But the field is deeply fractured. An anti-migrant rhetoric has heated up on the far right.

In the thick of all this is former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. He is barred from running for office but he could emerge as a kingmaker if his center right coalition comes out ahead. Currently leading in the polls is the populist Five Star Movement. Our Ben Wedeman takes a closer look.

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BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Few cities on Earth approach Rome when it comes to history, elegance and (INAUDIBLE).

But if you tune into Radio Roma Capitale, listen to the laments.

It is all about a city littered with garbage, streets full of potholes and substandard services.

There are two Romes. There is the Rome that tourists come and enjoy and then there is the other Rome, where people actually have to live and work. One is beautiful, the other is a mess. And few are the politicians who have been able to do anything about it. The latest to try to turn the Eternal City around is Mayor Virginia Raggi of the Five Star Movement, a political party founded by the Beppe Grillo, comedian turned fire-breathing, curse-flinging critic of the status quo.

The latest polls ahead of Sunday's election give the Five Star Movement almost 30 --

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WEDEMAN (voice-over): -- percent of the vote, the largest share of any party.

But critics warn if Mayor Raggi and the Five Star Movement couldn't fix Rome, they won't be able to fix Italy.

Roberto voted for Raggi two years ago and now regrets it.

"She promised many things," he says, "but achieved nothing."

Rome was not built in a day and it won't be put right in a year or two. Five Star Movement leader, 31-year-old Luigi Di Maio, counters criticism of his party with a familiar phrase.

"I suggest you don't read Italian newspapers," he tells me, "because they tell a lot of fake news."

At the final rally in the capital's Piazza del Popolo, Di Maio has another message for his supporters.

"We are a step away from victory." -- Ben Wedeman, CNN, Rome.

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VANIER: Let's bring in Dominic Thomas, he's CNN's European affairs commentator.

Dominic, good to talk to you again. The Five Star Movement, tell us about them and this sort of paradox that they're in. They lead the polls, the latest polls, before the campaign ban but yet they're unlikely to be in power.

Why is that?

DOMINIC THOMAS, CNN EUROPEAN AFFAIRS COMMENTATOR: Yes. Well, everyone is unlikely to be in power right now, because, as with other European elections that we have followed over the past year, whether it's the Dutch elections or the German elections, it's all been about coalition formations.

Right now, the four leading parties, nobody will reach the sort of magic threshold of 40 percent that it takes to lead single-handedly. So coalition talks will have to come into play.

The Five Star Movement initially talked about the fact that they were not interested in forming coalition parties with anybody. They're sort of the antiestablishment, antibusiness as usual party.

But increasingly, there's been the possibility of them forming coalition with the only other group that they have interest in speaking with right now, which is this Northern League, this far right political group. And the M5 has points of commonality with them, skepticism about greater European integration.

And they've, like everyone else, been very outspoken on the question of migration and Islam and so on.

VANIER: Is that what this election has been about, migration?

THOMAS: This election has absolutely and unequivocally been about the kinds of themes that have shaped the discussions around all European elections going back over a year, which is essentially national identity.

So we have political parties talking about Italy first and, therefore, the question of what it means to be Italian and what the role and the position of migrants and so on are in Italian society.

The one difference being that Italy, sitting on the Mediterranean as it does, has been affected by the migration crisis in a very real and tangible way. And it has been quite easy for parties to galvanize people around the question of immigration and the migrant crisis and to use that as a scapegoat for all the problems that Italy faces today.

VANIER: What about Silvio Berlusconi?

For a long period of time, he was the face of Italian politics and then he just disappeared in utter disgrace. He still has got convictions hanging around his neck for corruption, fraud, abuse of power, many others.

So how did he come back to this?

How did he rise again?

THOMAS: It's amazing really that he's even back in the running. Of course, if his party does well, he can't occupy political office, because he still sort of is living out this tax fraud issue that he's dealing with.

But he's a well-known political figure and he's been able to come into the fray by mainstreaming and in some ways appropriating some of the harsh rhetoric around the question of immigration, talking about how he would be eager to deport the 600,000 migrants that have come into the country.

So this question of Italy, national identity and the fact that he's a recognizable, well-known household name, has allowed him to come back into the fray. And he has an opportunity here to play a very important role, because he can speak to the Democratic Party.

Now they may say ahead of the elections they don't want to work with him. But afterwards it's unlikely that they can get into coalition talks and because of his agenda and the way he's leaning to the Right and in some ways will emerge as the leader of this far right coalition, he will be an important interlocutor in coalition talks.

VANIER: All right, Dominic Thomas, thank you very much. We'll speak to you again, I assume, throughout the weekend, certainly on Sunday into Monday, when we get the --

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VANIER: -- results and our viewers should know, we're unlikely to get a very clear result come Sunday night. It's going to be messy and you will walk us through it. Dominic, thank you.

THOMAS: Thank you very much.

VANIER: A winter storm that meteorologists are calling a bomb cyclone is pummeling the northeastern U.S. It's the second day of strong winds, pouring rain and surging tides across the region. Officials say more than a million customers are without power now.

In Massachusetts, emergency officials warn of astronomically high tides in the coming days, where flooding is already widespread. In New York State, heavy snow shut down roads and grounded planes; five deaths have been reported. The nor'easter is still hammering the U.S. East Coast.

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VANIER: Hollywood's biggest night has an added level of suspense this year.

How will the #TimesUp and #MeToo campaigns play out during the Academy Awards?

Stay with us.

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VANIER: The Academy Awards on Sunday are the culmination of Hollywood's awards season. But this year's show is haunted by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and accusations of sexual misconduct across the industry.

As Stephanie Elam reports, the question now is, what role will the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements play at this year's Oscars?

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(MUSIC PLAYING) STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The groundswell has been impossible to ignore.

OPRAH WINFREY, ACTOR: Now that we've all joined as one voice, it feels like empowerment to those women who never had it.

ELAM (voice-over): All awards season, the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have dominated red carpet conversation, as the entertainment industry took a stand again sexual assault and harassment.

Allegations against numerous Hollywood heavyweights spurred the action with the social calls to action providing an outlet to victims to speak out against their aggressors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's humbling but it's also empowering. I do think that this is such a bold statement for women who work in Hollywood to make, in solidarity with women across the world.

ELAM (voice-over): Other celebrities have used awards season to show their support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still see the #TimesUp pins at many events. And you still hear people at events and on the carpet referring to this movement, referring to the opening up what's happened in Hollywood and how important it is to keep the conversation going.

ELAM (voice-over): At both the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards, attendees arrived in all black with some bringing female activists as their guests. The SAG awards featured only female presenters. And guests at the Grammys carries white roses in solidarity.

Now the question is, how will the Academy Awards address this surge in activism?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ABC and the Academy have both been -- made pretty clear statements that they hope that they can find a way to appropriately address it, possibly within the program, but that it won't dominate the conversation.

ELAM (voice-over): While the Oscars are meant to be a celebration of film's biggest achievements, backlash is expected if the industry's largest hurdles are not addressed during the broadcast.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As much as Hollywood wants to celebrate the films and support the notion that the Oscars should never be completely politicized, I think there would be a backlash if they don't find one official moment within the show to acknowledge this movement.

ELAM (voice-over): The effects of a major shakeup in the industry rippling into Hollywood's biggest night -- Stephanie Elam, CNN, Hollywood.

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VANIER: And we have you covered for the Oscars, as we always do. Join John Vause and Isha Sesay for special live coverage of the 90th Academy Awards. They'll have latest star-studded reaction to Hollywood's biggest night. That will be on Monday, immediately following the Oscar telecast at 1:00 pm in Hong Kong, 5:00 am in London right here on CNN, of course.

Thank you for watching. I'm Cyril Vanier. I'm back with the headlines in just a moment. Stay with us.