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    Trump takes aim at Canada as nations protest his tariffs

    WASHINGTON — Already under fire for his combative trade policies, President Trump on Friday intensified pressure on Canada, demanding that America’s neighbor and close ally ‘‘open their markets and take down trade barriers.’’

    Trump’s tweet came a day after he ignited global condemnation by imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada and two other key US allies — the European Union and Mexico.

    The United States had sought use the tariff threat as cudgel to win concessions from Canada and Mexico in talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But the NAFTA talks sputtered anyway, and the Trump administration imposed the tariffs at midnight Thursday.

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    The president took to Twitter Friday to accuse Canada of treating US ‘‘farmers very poorly for a long period of time.’’ Trump also repeated his inaccurate claim that Canada runs a trade surplus with the United States. In fact, Commerce Department numbers show, the United States recorded a trade surplus with Canada for each of the past three years.

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    Trump’s antagonistic trade policies — and specifically the steel and aluminum tariffs — drew international denunciation. President Emmanuel Macron of France said Friday that he told Trump in a phone call that the new US tariffs on European, Mexican, and Canadian goods were illegal and a ‘‘mistake.’’

    And Macron pledged the retaliation would be ‘‘firm’’ and ‘‘proportionate’’ and in line with World Trade Organization rules.

    The European Union on Friday formally set in motion its trade retaliation against the US tariffs, filing a request for consultations at the WTO, which oversees disputes on global trade. An official at the WTO said the body had received a request from the EU for consultations with the United States concerning the tariffs on steel and aluminum. The two sides will discuss the matter and try to reach a deal. If that fails, after 60 days the EU can ask a WTO panel to rule on the case.

    Germany’s Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automaker, warned that the US action could start a trade war that no side would win.

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    The European Union and China said they will deepen ties on trade and investment as a result.

    ‘‘This is stupid — it’s counterproductive,’’ Francis Maude, a former British trade minister, told the BBC. ‘‘Any government that embarks on a protectionist path inflicts the most damage on itself.’’

    Trump’s move makes good on his campaign vows to crack down on trading partners that he claims exploit poorly negotiated trade agreements to run up big trade surpluses with the United States.

    The tariffs his administration has imposed threaten to drive up prices for American consumers and companies and heighten uncertainty for businesses and investors around the globe.