US to push steel, aluminum tariffs on EU, Canada and Mexico

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, left, welcomes US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross prior to their meeting at French Economy Ministry in Paris, France, Thursday, May 31, 2018. U.S. tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports are expected after Trump administration’s failure to win concessions from EU. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)

The Trump administration announced that the U.S will impose tariffs on steel, aluminum imports from Europe, Canada and Mexico, as a previously designated exemption expires tonight at midnight. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Canada, Mexico and the EU will now be placed under a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminum once the deadline hits Thursday night.

“As to Canada, Mexico, you will recall that the reason for the deferral had been pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks. As have been released publicly, those talks are taking longer than we had hoped. There is no longer a very precise date when they may be concluded and therefore they were added into the list of those who will bear tariffs,” explained Ross on a background call with reporters Thursday morning.

Ross, however, does not expect trade talks to be derailed because of the U.S’ move. He also expected NAFTA negotiations to continue despite the new barriers slapped on the U.S.’s neighbors to the north and south, and pointed to the fact that negotiations continue with China despite the barriers slapped on them previously by the united states.

U.S. and European officials held last-ditch talks in Paris on Thursday to try to reach a deal, though hopes are low and fears of a trade war are mounting.

“Global trade is not a gunfight at the OK Corral,” France’s finance minister quipped after meeting Ross. “It’s not about who attacks whom, and then wait and see who is still standing at the end.”

In a presidential proclamation released Thursday morning, President Trump writes that agreed with Secretary Ross’ assessment that “aluminum articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States.”

“I further stated that any country with which we have a security relationship is welcome to discuss with the United States alternative ways to address the threatened impairment of the national security caused by imports from that country, and noted that, should the United States and any such country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to the national security such that I determine that imports from that country no longer threaten to impair the national security, I may remove or modify the restriction on aluminum articles imports from that country and, if necessary, adjust the tariff as it applies to other countries, as the national security interests of the United States require,” Mr. Trump added.

The tariffs are likely to go into effect on the EU with an announcement before Friday’s deadline, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Mr. Trump announced in March that the United States would slap a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum, citing national security interests. But he granted an exemption to the EU and other U.S. allies; that reprieve expires Friday.

The EU has previously threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter and other goods in return for the U.S. moving forward with its tariff plans. Fears of a global trade war are already weighing on investor confidence and could hinder the global economic upturn. European officials argue that tit-for-tat tariffs will hurt growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mexico’s Ministry of Economy has already responded by vowing to impose “equivalent measures to various products in the face of U.S. protectionist measures.”

“Faced with tariffs imposed by the U.S., Mexico will impose equivalent measures to various products such as flat steel (hot and cold foil, including coated and various tubes), lamps, pork legs and shoulders, sausages and food preparations, apples, grapes, blueberries, various cheeses, among others, up to an amount comparable to the level of affectation. This measure will be in force until the U.S. government eliminates the imposed taxes,” a translated statement read from the ministry.

The statement added that “Mexico reiterates its openness to constructive dialogue with the U.S., its support for the international trading system and its rejection of unilateral protectionist measures.”

Asked what the Trump administration’s message to farmers who will likely be impacted by retaliatory maneuvers by Canada and Mexico, Ross offered this explanation:

“Let’s see what evolves as things go forward. The president is a great supporter of the farming community and as you may be aware, earlier directed sec Perdue to take whatever methods he could to offset” retaliation.

CBS News’ Katiana Krawchenko contributed to this report. 

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