U.S. won't exclude Canada from steel, aluminum tariffs, White House says

U.S. won't exclude Canada from steel, aluminum tariffs, White House says
From CBC - March 4, 2018

The Trump administration is coming under political pressure at home to exclude Canada from global tariffs on steel and aluminum, and while stating its preference for a hard line it's leaving the door open just the tiniest crack to the possibility of adjustments.

Lawmakers, businesses, and hosts on the Sunday political talk-shows all challenged the logic of slapping a national-security tariff on a peaceful next-door neighbour, pushing the administration to justify its move.

The administration says a final announcement is coming next week. On Sunday, it signalled that President Donald Trump is leaning toward a no-exceptions-for-anyone attitudebut then added some potential asterisks.

In the midst of an internal tug-of-war within the White House the administration was represented on the talk shows by two of its most prominent trade hawks, Trump advisor Peter Navarro and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Hopefulpossibility for Canada?

Both appeared to suggest the decision is close to final.

While no countries will be excluded, Navarro said some industries could get exemptions. This is of keen interest to Canada's auto sector, which is a leading supplier of steel and aluminum to the U.S.: "There will be an exemption procedure for particular cases where we need to have exemptions so business can move forward," Navarro said on CNN.

Ross held out the slim prospect of some changes: "We shall see," he told NBC's Meet The Press.

"(Trump) has made a decision at this point," he said of the 25 per cent tariff for steel and 10 per cent tariff for aluminum. "If he for some reason should change his mind, then it will change. I have no reason to believe he's going to change his mind."

The administration is being deluged with demands from its own political allies to relax its policy. The same two top Republican lawmakers who shepherded Trump's tax-cut achievement through Congress, Kevin Brady and Orrin Hatch, have pleaded for revisions.

A senator of a border state said he's already hearing from businesses at home. Angus King, an Independent senator from Maine, compared Trump's plan to the devastating U.S. tariffs of the 1930s. He said companies in his state fear price increases for steel.

King said any trade actions should be targeted to discourage Chinese dumpingnot hit the entire world.

"You want to do these kinds of things with a scalpelnot a chainsaw," King told NBC.

To apply the tariffs, the U.S. is invoking a rarely used clause in a 1962 trade law that allows the president to declare tariffs if required by national security. The White House argues that the wording is broad, and that national security also could include employment and economic stability of the domestic steel industry.

U.S. talk shows raise Canada angle

"I do not think we need to block Canadian steel in the name of national security. They are annoying. You know, they are too nice. But we do not fear a war with Canada," King said.

Every host of the big weekly U.S. talk shows raised the Canada angle.


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