The Trump administration will levy hefty steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico starting on Friday, a move likely to lead to retaliation and risk the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossPresident TrumpDonald John TrumpKoch brothers company tweets support for Kim Kardashian after Trump meeting Romney reveals he wrote in wife’s name for president in 2016 Pompeo has dinner with top North Korean official in New York: report MORE has decided to end the temporary exemptions for the three key trading allies despite their two months of lobbying to avoid the tariffs.Wilbur Louis RossHillicon Valley: Senators pressure Bolton to save cyber post | Judge rejects Kaspersky lawsuit | DHS, Commerce release report on fighting botnets | Trump official worries EU data law will hurt trade Trump will hit EU with steel, aluminum tariffs: report Overnight Finance: Fed advances Volcker rule rewrite in win for banks | Trump official knocks Mnuchin over China ‘trade war’ talk | Study says auto tariffs will cost 157K jobs MORE on Thursday said
“We look forward to continued negotiations with Canada and Mexico on one hand and with the European Commission on the other hand as there are other issues we need to get resolved,” Ross told reporters on a conference call.
Ross said the White House would need to see the reactions of Canada, Mexico and the 28-nation European bloc before determining what to do next.
But he said that U.S. officials are “quite willing and eager” to have further discussions with all of the parties.
The trading partners have all warned the U.S. that they will impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports if the U.S. goes through with the steel and aluminum tariffs.
Trump first announced tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum for national security reasons in March.
Canada and Mexico have said tariffs are unacceptable, don’t affect U.S. national security and that their implementation could put the fate of NAFTA at stake.
The EU is expected to quickly retaliate with promised tariffs of about $3.3 billion on iconic American products such as bourbon, jeans and motorcycles.
Last year, nearly 50 percent of U.S steel and aluminum imports in 2017 came from the EU Canada and Mexico.
Ross repeated remarks he made on Wednesday in Paris during an OECD meeting that just because the United States have levied the tariffs doesn’t mean that negotiations with the countries are halted even if they retaliate.
“If any of these parties retaliate that does not mean that there can’t be continuing negotiations,” Ross told reporters.
“Take the example of China, the tariffs that we’ve imposed went into effect on China on the 23rd of March and, as you’re well aware, we have continued to have trade negotiations with China,” he said.
“So, the fact that we took the tariff action doesn’t mean that there cannot be negotiation,” he said.
The U.S. had delayed imposing the tariffs on Canada and Mexico pending talks on NAFTA and related national security issues, Ross said.
“Those talks are taking longer than we’d hoped, there is no longer a precise date when they may be concluded, so they were added into list of those who will bear tariffs,” he said.
Discussions with the EU made some progress didn’t get to the point where it was warranted to give the bloc a continued temporary exemption or a permanent exemption, Ross said.
South Korea had previously reached a deal with the Trump administration for an exemption.
Argentina, Brazil Australia have reached agreements that will allow those exemptions from the tariffs for now.
Ross said that Trump can “do anything he wishes at any point subsequent from today” on whether to impose tariffs and quotes.
“There is potential flexibility going forward,” Ross said.
The Section 232 law, which is rarely used, allows tariffs to be placed on imports in the name of national security.