(Metal tariffs) Trump deplores foreign trade 'assault' on US industries

Business | 9 Mar 2018 11:20 am

Undeterred by Republican warnings of a trade war, US President Donald Trump ordered steep new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports to the U.S. on Thursday, vowing to fight back against an "assault on our country” by foreign competitors. The president said he would exempt Canada and Mexico as "a special case” while negotiating for changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The new tariffs will take effect in 15 days, with America’s neighbors indefinitely spared "to see if we can make the deal,” Trump said. He suggested in an earlier meeting with his Cabinet that Australia and "other countries” might be spared, a shift that could soften the international blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners

Those "other countries” can try to negotiate their way out of the tariffs, he indicated, by ensuring their trade actions do not harm America’s security.

Surrounded by steel and aluminum workers holding hard hats, Trump cast his action as necessary to protect industries "ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices. It’s really an assault on our country. It’s been an assault.”

His move, an assertive step for his "America First” agenda, has rattled allies across the globe and raised questions at home about whether protectionism will impede U.S. economic growth. The president made his announcement the same day that officials from 11 other Pacific Rim countries signed a sweeping trade agreement that came together after he pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year.

Though he focused on workers and their companies in his announcement, Trump’s legal proclamation made a major point that weakened steel and aluminum industries represent a major threat to America’s military strength and national security.

The former real estate developer said U.S. politicians had for years lamented the decline in the steel and aluminum industries but no one before him was willing to take action.

Despite a week of furious lobbying against his plan by Republican lawmakers and some of his own advisers, Trump said he would go ahead with penalty tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. But he also said the penalties could "go up or down depending on the country, and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries. I just want fairness.”-AP

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