Donald Trump

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Trump Admin. Imposes Steel, Aluminum Tariffs On Canada, Mexico, EU

May 31, 2018 - 5:55 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- The Trump administration announced Thursday that the U.S will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from three of its closest trading allies -- Canada, Mexico, and countries in the European Union.

The decision is meant to protect U.S. national security, but has sparked concerns over how those countries are already planning to retaliate.

“The reasoning is that without a strong domestic steel and aluminum industry, the U.S. is at risk in terms of its national security, so the Trump administration had a few months ago proposed global tariffs on steel and aluminum imports,” Bloomberg reporter Andrew Mayeda told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace. “They had offered an exemption for the EU, Canada, and Mexico. That exemption was due to expire tonight at midnight, and the administration announced today that they will not be receiving a new exemption.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the U.S. will impose tariffs of 25 percent on imports of steel and 10 percent on aluminum once a previously designated exemption expires Thursday at midnight. President Donald Trump initially proposed the tariffs in March, and had deferred action while negotiations proceeded.

"As to Canada, Mexico, you will recall that the reason for the deferral had been pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks," said Ross on a call with reporters Thursday morning. "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."

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

"The EU believes these unilateral US tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple," said President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker said in a statement. 

The Commission also said the EU will seek to "rebalance the situation by targeting a list of U.S. products with additional duties." The EU has previously threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. orange juice, peanut butter, blue jeans and other goods. 

Mayeda said the EU has now threatened to retaliate by imposing tariffs on “everything from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to Kentucky bourbon to Levi’s jeans.”

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." It said U.S. targets would include a variety of products, including food such as pork legs and shoulders, sausages, apples, blueberries, and various cheeses. "This measure will be in force until the U.S. government eliminates the imposed taxes," a translated statement read from the ministry.

Canada's Department of Finance also issued a notice of intent to impose countermeasures against the U.S. in response to the tariffs. Among the countermeasures is $16.6 billion (Canadian dollars) in retaliatory tariffs in steel row. "These countermeasures will take effect on July 1, 2018 and will remain in place until the U.S. eliminates its trade-restrictive measures against Canada.  The countermeasures will not apply to U.S. goods that are in transit to Canada on the day on which these countermeasures come into force," Canada said in a statement.

Ross, however, does not expect NAFTA talks to be derailed. He expected NAFTA negotiations to continue, and pointed to the fact that trade negotiations continue with China despite the recent barriers imposed.

Asked on CNBC if the administration had effectively declared a trade war on some of America's closest trading partners, Ross said "no, not at all."

"This has been under discussion for quite a long time and it's a very small percentage of the respective economy. A fraction of 1 percent," he explained.

But Mayeda said a global trade war may be on the horizon, if it has not already begun.

“I was a holdout on this, actually. I thought that weren’t headed for a trade war. I mean, if you actually look at the threats that the president has made, he actually hasn’t followed through on a lot of them. The Chinese tariffs come to mind – he actually hasn’t implemented any of those,” Mayeda said. “But we’re getting very close to a trade war if we’re not already in one, because you’re seeing the type of tit for tat actions between countries that characterize this type of skirmish.”

In the wake of the announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron is calling the levy tariffs on the European Union are "illegal" and a "mistake."

Macron said that he deplores the U.S. action and that he plans to speak with U.S. President Donald Trump later Thursday telling him just that.

The French president said the tariff move does not in line with international trade law that the United States, France and Europe have subscribed to. He stressed that there would be a European response.

The German government has also rejected the tariffs on steel and aluminum announced by the Trump administration as "unlawful."

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel refers in a statement to "the danger of spirals of escalations" that could hurt everyone.

In Canada, Ontario's premier is calling President Trump a "bully" and says the new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum are "ridiculous and unwarranted."

Kathleen Wynne says Canada has to send a signal to Trump that Canada "will not be your doormat."

She says the only way to stand up to a bully is to stand up and push back. She's urging Canada take a swift and sharp retaliatory response.

Wynne says Trump's actions will hurt jobs in the United States and Canada.

U.S. stock markets went down on the news - but not significantly.

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 [Secretary of Agriculture> Sonny Perdue to take whatever methods he could to offset" retaliation.

In a presidential proclamation released Thursday morning, President Trump wrote that he agreed with 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."

CBS News' Katiana Krawchenko contributed to this report.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)