- New tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminum will go into effect in 15 days, but Canada and Mexico will be spared from the start
- Every other nation that has a ‘security relationship’ with the U.S. will be able to petition for individual exemptions
- Senior official said earlier in the day that talk of retail price hikes because of raw material costs is just ‘fake news’
- Confusion reigned overnight in Washington with competing news outlets reporting that Thursday tariff signing was on, then off – or perhaps a maybe
- Trump tweeted cryptically about a ‘meeting’ on Thursday, not a signing event, but the White House held the ceremony on schedule
- Republicans in Congress had warned the president about economic consequences of a trade war, leaving him unsure about following through
Donald Trump signed an order on Thursday imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, after days of guessing games and internal White House battles over whether daring China to enter a trade war is sound policy.
The president appeared in the Oval Office, flanked by senior officials on one side and a group of steelworkers on the other.
‘You are truly the backbone of America, you know that? You are very special people,’ he told the blue collar contingent.
‘We want a lot of steel coming into our country, but we want it to be fair and we want our workers to be protected.’
The president said his promises to factory workers were a big reason for his 2016 victory, complaining that American steel and aluminum workers have been betrayed – but ‘that betrayal is now over.’
Far from being the ironclad, no-compromises national security measures Trump has telegraphed in the past week, the Associated Press reported that every nation in the world will be able to petition the United States for exemptions.
A senior administration official said the national security underpinnings of the new policy were ‘unassailable,’ and clarified that the offer of loopholes would be somewhat limited
Trump will ‘allow any country with which we have a security relationship to discuss with the United States and the president alternate ways’ of protecting America’s interests, the official said, while cautioning that petitioning countries would have to prove that their steel and aluminum exports aren’t harming America’s national security capabilities.
And ‘it doesn’t just refer to national defense. It’s national security, broadly defined,’ the official added.
That measuring stick could encompass anything from protecting domestic steel mills and foundries to guaranteeing the availability of affordable materials for the automotive and aerospace industries.
Rapid responses from Trump critics in Congress were forceful and unyielding.
‘These so-called “flexible tariffs” are a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth – protectionism and uncertainty. Trade wars are not won, they are only lost,’ said Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a persistent thorn in Trump’s side who will retire in less than a year.
‘Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts disaster. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs,’ Flake said in a statement.
Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, a close Trump ally, was equally sour on the new policy.