Despite opposition by U.S. allies and fellow Republicans, President Donald Trump decided to move forward Thursday with his plan to impose stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. He signed two tariff proclamations at the White House on Thursday, surrounded by steel and aluminum workers, CNN reports.
“A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security – absolutely vital. Steel is steel, you don’t have steel you don’t have a country,” the president said, adding that foreign imports and dumping have led to “shuttered plants and mills” and to “millions of workers” being laid off.
“This is not merely an economic disaster, but it’s a security disaster we want to build our ships, we want to build our planes … with steel and aluminum from our country,” Trump said. “We’re finally taking action to correct this long overdue problem. Today I’m defending America’s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum.”
However, he also noted that Canada and Mexico will be exempted from the tariffs, while other U.S. allies will be allowed to petition for similar exemptions, a shift from initial plans. The United States and its two NAFTA allies continue to renegotiate that free trade agreement, while a senior administration official said the reason behind the exemption was the “security relationship” between the three countries.
Yet, regardless of the exclusions, the policy is expected to cause a global trade war which President Trump insists the United States can win. Some of his closest advisers, however, warn that the tariffs could hurt the U.S. economy. Trump is imposing the tariffs using a trade provision known as Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, citing a national security rationale for protecting the domestic steel and aluminum industries.
“I’m delivering on a promise I made during the campaign and a promise I’ve been making for a good part of my life,” the president said prior to signing the tariff proclamations.
In the U.S., Trump faced serious criticism from trade groups representing retailers and manufacturers who are top consumers of steel and aluminum. He was also rebuked by members of his own party, most notably House Speaker Paul Ryan who continued to lament Trump’s move.
“I am pleased that the President has listened to those who share my concerns and included an exemption for some American allies, but it should go further. We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law,” Ryan said.
Over 100 Republicans wrote Trump on Wednesday, calling on him to reconsider his plan to impose “broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences.”
Despite the exclusions, the tariffs could lead to retaliation from certain countries. The European Union on Wednesday detailed a list of U.S.-made goods that it would subject to reciprocal tariffs if President Trump decided to follow through with his plan. China also indicated it was preparing an appropriate response.