UPDATE: Trump signs aluminum, steel tariffs into law

UPDATE 2 — 3/8, 3:50 p.m. EST: Speaking Thursday afternoon at a signing ceremony from the White House’s Roosevelt Room, President Trump announced the U.S. is implementing 25 percent and 10 tariffs, respectively, on imported steel and aluminum.

In explaining his decision, Trump said the policy reform is in the interest of “national security” and the American economy.

The president further stipulated exemptions for excise taxes on the raw materials coming from Canada and Mexico will be contingent on their willingness to renegotiate NAFTA.

UPDATE — 3/6, 8:11 a.m. EST: A European Commission document viewed by Bloomberg shows the EU will impose a 25 percent tariff on a variety of U.S. imported goods if President Trump follows through with his threat to raise excise taxes on steel and aluminum.

According to the list, tariffs will apply to agricultural, consumer and steel products like clothing, vehicles, alcohol, orange juice and corn, among other items.

With industry executives at his side in a White House meeting on Friday, President Trump announced his administration would impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum sometime this week.

The world’s top steel importer, the U.S. purchases over $29 billion worth of steel products.

While expressing admiration for the negotiating skills of foreign nations for taking advantage of what Trump described as trade agreements previous administrations should be ashamed of and defending American business interests, the president said:

“The fact is we weren’t treated and haven’t been treated fairly by other countries. We’ll be signing it next week. And you’ll have protection for a long time in a while. You’ll have to regrow your industries, that’s all I’m asking. What’s been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. . . . When it comes to a time where our country can’t make aluminum and steel . . . you almost don’t have much of a country.”

Trump is proposing duties on steel at 25 percent and aluminum at 10 percent.

A proposition aimed primarily at China, which dominates global steel production, Trump’s action drew sharp rebukes from foreign leaders, including the EU, and from GOP lawmakers.

While campaigning for president, Trump endlessly bemoaned unfair trade practices and poorly-negotiated deals which benefited U.S. trade partners. Trump often mentioned China’s steel dominance, accusing the rising superpower of taking employment opportunities from Americans.

China produces an astonishing 49 percent of the 1.7 billion metric tons of steel produced annually, but trails Japan, South Korea and Canada in steel exports to the U.S.

steel production countries china

Reacting to the new measures as “absolutely unfair,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blasted the decision and vowed to retaliate unless Canada received an exemption from the levies. Canada exports $5.53 billion in steel annually.

It is, however, Congress in which Trump found his most rigid opposition. Lining up against the president were some of his most ardent supporters.

Expressing concern over a possible trade war, retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the tariff proposal is akin to a tax on America:

“Tariffs on steel and aluminum are a tax hike the American people don’t need and can’t afford. I encourage the president to carefully consider all of the implications of raising the cost of steel and aluminum on American manufacturers and consumers.”

Similarly, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), asked the president to reconsider his motion. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a Trump critic, said protectionism is “weak, not strong.”

In addition to fear of a trade war over steel, some lawmakers demonstrated anxiety with the possibility U.S. trading partners would retaliate more broadly, particularly against American agricultural products sold overseas.

“I talked with some of the guys that work more in the steel area, like I say I focus on the Ag side, and they’re saying well they need some help . . . At the same time, we want to be very careful to make sure that it doesn’t hurt our ability to export in other areas,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said.

Responding on Saturday to suggestions from EU officials of increasing tariffs on U.S.-made goods to counter the move, Trump threatened to increase excise taxes on European automobiles shipped to America.

[Roll Call] [CNNMoney] [CBC] [Reuters] [AP] [Photo courtesy Win McNamee/Getty Images via thestar.com]