The Slatest

White House Makes Clear U.S. Allies Would Also Be Hit With New Tariffs

The United States Steel Corporation plant stands in the town of Clairton on March 2, 2018 in Clairton, Pennsylvania. In a controversial move that has angered European Union leaders, President Donald Trump has announced a plan to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. The European Union head president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said he will put tariffs on products like Harley-Davidsons, Kentucky bourbon and bluejeans if the steel tariffs go through.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
The United States Steel Corporation plant stands in the town of Clairton on March 2, 2018 in Clairton, Pennsylvania.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Top White House officials went on the Sunday talk shows and made it pretty clear that while it was President Donald Trump who would decide what would happen with the harsh tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, for now there is little sign that there would be any exemptions for U.S. allies. The president’s advisers defended the position and made clear that for now the Trump administration would not make any kind of exemptions for the likes of Canada, Britain or other European allies. One adviser did give a hint that there could be exemptions though for certain businesses, suggesting that perhaps the tariffs won’t be as all-encompassing as some thought at first.

“There’s a difference between exemptions and country exclusions,” Peter Navarro, who directs the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, said on CNN’s State of the Union. “There will be an exemption procedure for particular cases where we need to have exemptions so that business can move forward, but at this point in time, there will be no country exclusions.” Although he didn’t specify what the exemptions would entail, Bloomberg says “they are likely to be confined to specific types of steel or aluminum products used by different industries, which may not be made at all in the U.S.”

Navarro said Trump is expected to sign the tariffs, which he announced would be of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, at the end of this week or early next week. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross dismissed any retaliation that European countries could take as ultimately insignificant. “It’s some $3 billion of goods that the Europeans have threatened to put something on,” Ross said on ABC. “Well, in our sized economy, that’s a tiny, tiny fraction of 1 percent. So while it might affect an individual producer for a little while, overall it’s not going to be much more than a rounding error.”

Meanwhile though the intense lobbying from world leaders continued. On Sunday it was the turn of British Prime Minister Theresa May who expressed “deep concern” over the planned tariffs. In a phone conversation, May told Trump that “multilateral action was the only way to resolve the problem of global overcapacity in all parties’ interests,” according to a spokesperson.