FT: Trump Adopts Steel Tariffs but Opens Door to ExemptionsBusiness | March 9, 2018, Friday // 09:14| views
Donald Trump formally adopted new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports on Thursday while allowing US allies to apply for exemptions, a sign of growing concern in Washington that the president was alienating America’s closest international partners. Acting under a Cold War statute that gives US presidents the power to impose tariffs on imports if they threaten the country’s national security, Mr Trump said the US would begin applying tariffs on imports from everywhere but Canada and Mexico. “A strong steel and aluminium industry are vital to our national security,” Mr Trump said. “Steel is steel. You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.” The proclamations he signed on Thursday impose a 25 per cent penalty on steel imports and 10 per cent penalty on aluminium imports. The tariffs, which will come into force within 15 days, are expected to lead to retaliation from the EU and other steel producers and heighten fears of a trade war. But the tariff regime was softened at the last minute to spare Canada and Mexico, albeit temporarily, while the US and its neighbours renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. The US would also create a process for the exclusion of certain products and for countries with a close security relationship with the US to seek exemptions.
The president’s move to impose punitive tariffs is meant to fulfil a campaign promise to protect the US steel industry and bring back jobs to many of the blighted Rust Belt communities in swing states that helped elect him in 2016. It also precedes by just days a special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district that includes many communities once dependent on the steel industry and where Mr Trump is due to campaign on Saturday. “Our industries have been targeted for years and years by unfair foreign practices,” Mr Trump said on Thursday, citing “the decimation of entire communities” and declaring “that’s going to stop”. The move came as Japan, Canada and nine other Pacific Rim countries signed a trade deal, vowing to push back against protectionist forces. Mr Trump last year pulled the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership as one of his first acts as president. While the tariffs were welcomed broadly by steel and aluminium producers, they drew criticism from a wider array of industry and business groups representing industries that use steel.