Compiled by Kevin Schulz
Sticking to his word, President Donald Trump today signed a pair of proclamations imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, according to media reports.
The Washington Post wrote that U.S. allies Canada and Mexico will be exempt from the tariffs that take effect in 15 days, so that talks can progress on the North American Free Trade Agreement renegotiations.
The Post goes onto say “Other countries with a ‘security relationship’ to the United States may seek exemptions by opening talks with the administration on ‘alternative ways’ to address the threats the administration alleges their products pose to national security,” a senior administration official says.
National Pork Producers Council has joined other agriculture groups voicing opposition to imposing steel and aluminum tariffs on trade partners for fear of retaliation.
“The fear is that if there is retaliation, these countries will look at what products they’re importing and put duties on them,” NPPC CEO Neil Dierks told National Hog Farmer. “When we look at total exports in these countries, agriculture leads it. It is just common sense if someone is going to get a whack, agriculture is a candidate, and we are very concerned about that.”
The NPPC today issued a statement, saying “America’s pork producers are concerned that the tariffs on imported steel and aluminum will prompt countries to place retaliatory duties on U.S. goods, including pork. Retaliation will cost rural America jobs and undermine the rural economy.”
And that is exactly what China warns. “If the United States’ final decision affects China’s interests, we will take necessary measures to defend our rights,” says Wang Hejun, a senior official at China’s Commerce Ministry, reports news agency Xinhua.
In the Post article, Trump says it’s about time to get tough on the global trading table. “Our industries have been targeted for years and years, decades in fact, by unfair foreign trade practices leading to the shuttered plants and mills, the laying off of millions of workers, and the decimation of entire communities. And that’s going to stop. It’s going to stop.”
For countries that do not win exemptions, the Post says, steel imports will be taxed at 25% and aluminum imports at 10%. If Mexico and Canada win permanent exemptions, tariffs on imports from other nations may be increased beyond 25%, a Trump official says on a call previewing Trump’s announcement.
Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced he will be introducing legislation to nullify the tariffs, according to the USA Today. “Some of us are just waiting to see what he does, and then we’ll draft legislation quickly to nullify it. … That’s what I’m going to do.”
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is concerned with the apparent favoritism shown our neighbor to the north and to the south. “I don’t think our trade policy ought to be used as a playing card in the talks with both Canada and Mexico on NAFTA,” Roberts was quote in the USA Today. “He’s exempting our allies, but it’s sort of a pick-and-choose thing. There’s no real stability or predictability.”
Also in the USA Today, some legislators are considering taking back some power. GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin says he is considering backing legislation to require congressional approval for such trade actions. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed the legislation in January 2017 as a response to what Republicans said was executive overreach by President Obama.
“Congress in so many areas has ceded power and authority to the president,” says Johnson, who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “We should probably start taking some of that back.”