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“We’ll be imposing tariffs on steel imports” and “on aluminum imports,” Trump told metals industry executives at the White House on Thursday. “Some time next week well be signing it in. And you’re going to have protection for the first time in a long time,” he said.
There was confusion Thursday morning after the White House retreated from an announcement over trade. On Wednesday night, Trump looked set to announce stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum, and industry CEOs were sent a last-minute invitation to the White House for a meeting with the president. Trump told aides that he favoured global tariffs on both commodities, the most punitive options presented to him by his officials.
He told them he favours tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum from all countries — both of which would exceed the most severe option presented to him by the commerce department. The president has until April 11 to announce a decision on steel and April 19 for aluminum.
A White House official said early Thursday that there would be an announcement on trade later in the day. Trump’s “listening session” with chief executives included ArcelorMittal USA’s John Brett, Nucor John Ferriola and Century Aluminum’s Mike Bless. Bloomberg
Trump has been considering a range of options to curb imports of steel and aluminum, after the Commerce Department concluded that shipments of the two commodities hurt U.S. national security.
“Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world,” Trump said in a Twitter posting Thursday morning. “We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!"
A U.S. move on tariffs may provoke retaliation from China, the world’s biggest steel and aluminum producer. China has already launched a probe into U.S. imports of sorghum, and is studying whether to restrict shipments of U.S. soybeans -- targets that could hurt Trump’s support in some farming states. While China accounts for just a fraction of U.S. imports of the metals, it’s accused of flooding the global market and dragging down prices.
It could add to tensions between the world’s two-biggest economies on the same day Chinese President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser, Liu He, is scheduled to meet Trump’s senior economic team in Washington -- including White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Foreign government officials have travelled to Washington in recent days to voice their concern about tariffs. Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo was said to warn the administration about his country’s plans for retaliatory measures. Trump is also under pressure from members of his own Republican party to tread lightly to avoid triggering global retaliation and amid concerns of higher prices for consumer goods.
Last April, the president ordered Commerce to study the impact of steel and aluminum imports on national security under seldom-used section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. Commerce submitted its final reports to the president in January.