WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump signed proclamations Thursday to issue tariffs on foreign and steel imports, exempting Canada and Mexico indefinitely as NAFTA negotiations continue.
“President Donald Trump, following through on one of his most controversial campaign promises, signed two proclamations Thursday that implement tariffs on imported steel and aluminum but exempt Canada and Mexico.
The president signed the tariffs in the White House’s Roosevelt Room, surrounded by workers who will supposedly benefit from the moves. The tariffs will take effect in 15 days.
The moves will slap a 25 percent levy on steel and 10 percent charge on aluminum. White House officials say the tariffs are an essential matter of domestic and economic security.
“A strong steel and aluminum industry are vital to our national security,” Trump said. “You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.””
Canada provides the largest quantity of U.S. steel imports, and together with Mexico constitutes the parties to the North American Free Trade Association. The exemptions may hint at Trump using the tariffs as a negotiating tool to gain leverage in wider trade talks. That approach was evident in Trump’s statements about other countries possibly getting exemptions from the tariffs.
“In addition to the exceptions for the two NAFTA partners, the White House will give other nations the opportunity to justify why they shouldn’t be included.
“If the same goals can be accomplished by other means, America will remain open to modifying or removing the tariffs for individual nations, as long as we can agree on a way to ensure that their products no longer threaten our security,” Trump said.
Determining further exceptions will depend on whether countries can convince Trump that there’s a “satisfactory alternative means” for resolving trade inequities, said an administration official familiar with the tariff proclamations who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We’re going to show great flexibility,” Trump added.”
Perhaps this was Trump’s plan all along. It would be consistent with his negotiating style, but still plays fast and loose with the pillars of conservative economic policy that support limited government philosophy.
To the extent that Trump follows through with a protectionist regime on trade, economic activity will face headwinds, geopolitical countermeasures are likely, and individual economic freedoms will be restricted.
On net, jobs will not be brought back to the U.S. – they owe most of the demise to technology and automation, not outsourcing – and only unions and other special interests protected by the taxes will benefit.