President Donald Trump has left the door ajar for other allies, after granting Mexico and Canada exemptions from the steel and aluminium tariffs.

By Joe McDonough


Posted on March 9, 2018

Trump has signed executive orders on Thursday enacting tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

The levies of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium will take effect from March 23.

 

President Donald Trump signed off on the tariffs in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, surrounded by steel and aluminium workers.

“I’m delivering on a promise I made during the campaign,” he said.

“A strong steel and aluminium industry are vital to our national security… You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.”

NAFTA partners exempt for now

Canada and Mexico have been offered an exemption from the new tariffs, at least until the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is renegotiated.

The three countries are struggling to agree to terms on the modernised treaty, with only six of NAFTA’s 30 chapters being concluded over seven rounds of talks.

And if the US doesn’t get its way, Trump has indicated he will rescind the exemption. Canada is far and away the biggest exporter of steel to the US.

The President has also said he is open to granting further exemptions to US allies, as long as their products “no longer threaten our security”.

“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.

“We’re going to show great flexibility,” he added.

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.

Australia holding out hope it could be next

The President singled out Australia as an ally, when talking to reporters about further potential exemptions.

“We have a very close relationship with Australia, we have a trade surplus with Australia, great country long term partner we’ll be doing something with them,” he said.

Prior to this latest development, the Turnbull government had been blindsided by Trump’s ‘no exemptions’ statement last week, with sources claiming the Australian delegation at the G20 summit in Hamburg were “absolutely certain” a deal had been made with the President that would see Australia given special dispensation.

The government representatives reportedly then instructed ambassador Joe Hockey to follow it up with the Trump administration in Washington and get it in writing.

In response to the apparent communication break-down, Turnbull and Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe were preparing to make a joint stand against Trump’s plan, leveraging their positions as key military allies.

Ambassador Greg Norman

Former golf champion and successful businessman Greg Norman has taken it upon himself to help sway President Trump to exclude Australia from the impending tariffs.

Norman, a close friend of the President’s, has co-signed a petition addressed to Trump, which requests exemption from the levies.

US-based Australian corporate heavyweights Robert Thomson (News Corp CEO) and Andrew Liveris (Dow Chemical boss) have also added their weight.

The move has been endorsed by Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop.

“We’re calling in all contacts at every level. This is a very important matter for Australia, it’s also a very important principle,” she told the ABC‘s AM program.

“We’re making contacts at every level throughout the administration, including business representatives, to make our case.”

Social media users, on the other hand, have seen the funny side of Norman’s appointment as unofficial ambassador.