US metal tariffs: Mexico and Canada may be exempt, White House says

A worker at a steel factory in GermanyImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The US is planning tariffs on metals – but may be hit in kind by other countries

Canada and Mexico may be exempt from US plans to impose tariffs on metal imports, the White House says.

Other countries may also see “carve-outs” on national security grounds, press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

US President Donald Trump has said steel products will face a 25% tariff, with 10% on aluminium goods.

But there are fears the plans could spark a trade war, and it reportedly helped lead to the resignation of White House economic adviser Gary Cohn.

The EU has proposed retaliatory measures against a number of US goods including bourbon and peanut butter.

Despite opposition at home and abroad, Ms Sanders said the US president would sign the measures in by the end of the week.

But she added: “There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well based on that process. That would be [on] a case-by-case and country by country basis.”

Why is Mr Trump doing this?

Mr Trump has railed against the US trade deficit, arguing that other countries have been “taking advantage of” the US for decades.

One of his campaign promises was to rebuild the US steel and aluminium industries which he said has suffered “disgraceful” treatment from other countries, in particular China.

Last week he dismissed concerns he could trigger a trade war, instead saying “trade wars are good” and were something the US would easily win.

The latest comments from the White House mark a softening of tone.

Mr Trump has already hinted he could drop plans to impose tariffs on Mexican and Canadian metals but linked it to the US getting a better deal in the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

What’s the reaction been?

The US plans have sparked worldwide alarm and jolted stock markets.

Critics argue that the tariffs would fail to protect American jobs and would ultimately raise prices for consumers.

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde warned “nobody wins” in a trade war, saying it would harm global economic growth.

The EU has set out tit-for-tat plans to impose import duties on bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries, orange juice, steel, and industrial products. Other countries, including China, are also considering retaliatory steps.

Members of Mr Trump’s Republican party are concerned too, with House Speaker Paul Ryan saying he wanted to see tariffs that were “more surgical and more targeted”.

Tuesday saw the departure of Gary Cohn from the White House, who is a strong supporter of free trade.


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