The Trump administration briefly toyed last week with the idea of imposing import tariffs on Australia, eventually rejecting the notion after facing harsh opposition from military officials and the State Department, said people with knowledge of the discussions.
The consideration came as a result of the increased influx of Australian aluminum onto the U.S. market over the past several months but was quickly dismissed at the urging of Defense and State Department officials, who stressed to President Donald Trump that such a move could alienate a top ally and hurt the U.S. significantly.
The New York Times, which first reported the deliberations, writes that a decision to impose tariffs would have opened yet another front in America’s trade war with a number of countries, most notably China, Japan and most recently Mexico.
The Trump administration has long criticized previous administrations for being too lenient on trade in order to accomplish foreign policy goals, arguing that such concessions have hurt the American industry and led to the loss of thousands of jobs.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on close allies has caused turmoil and widespread dissatisfaction. Critics of the President’s trade policies say that this approach would most certainly have a negative effect on relations with key allies and consequently on the country’s defense capabilities.
Aluminum imports from Australia have seen significant growth as the country remained one of the few not hit with metal tariffs. As a result, between 2017 and 2018 alone aluminum imports from Australia increased by 45 percent and in the first quarter of this year, they rose by 350 percent compared to the three first months of 2018.
Still, Australia remains a very small aluminum supplier, accounting for only 6 percent of all imports to the United States. But the country has lately stood out as an important ally in curbing Chinese influence in the Asia-Pacific region, prompting many officials to advise against tariffs on Australian metal.