US politicians, business leaders and commentators have all challenged White House plans to include Canada in its planned “national-security” steel and aluminum tariffs.
The White House is still taking a hard, no-exceptions line, but there does seem to be some possibility of accommodation. A final decision is due this week.
On Sunday news talk shows on the major networks, trade hardliners from the Trump administration suggested the decision is close to final, but did leave open the possibility that some industries could be exempted. The Canadian auto industry is a major supplier of steel and aluminum to the US.
Interviewed on CNN, Trump advisor Peter Navarro said “There’ll be an exemption procedure for particular cases where we need to have exemptions so business can move forward.”
On NBC, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross held out little possibility of change. “(Trump) has made a decision at this point. If he for some reason should change his mind, then it’ll change. I have no reason to believe he’s going to change his mind.”
The administration is facing demands from its political allies to relax its plan to impose a 25 per cent tariff for steel and 10 per cent tariff for aluminum. The same two top Republican lawmakers who shepherded Trump’s tax-cut plan 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 dumping, not hit the entire world.
“You want to do these kinds of things with a scalpel, not 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.
“I don’t think we need to block Canadian steel in the name of national security. They’re annoying. You know, they’re too nice. But we don’t fear a war with Canada,” King said.
Fox News’s Chris Wallace asked how the White House can possibly justify using a national security excuse for imposing tariffs on a close NATO partner, and legal member of the U.S. military-industrial complex.
CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Navarro to imagine how Canada might see this. “From the perspective of Canada … Canada would say, ‘National security exemption? We fight with you in every war. Our soldiers are right next to your soldiers in every conflict. What possible scenario could you envision where we wouldn’t supply you with steel and aluminum?’”
But the general response from Trump officials was that everyone should prepare for tariffs. When Navarro was asked on Fox whether Trump would exclude anyone, he responded in the negative.
“That’s not his decision,” Navarro replied.
“As soon as he starts exempting countries he has to raise tariffs on everybody else. As soon as he exempts one country his phone starts ringing from the heads of state of other countries.”
Source: The Canadian Press