After a week of hints and uncertainty, President Donald Trump on Thursday announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum but with temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico as he seeks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“We're negotiating right now on NAFTA - and we're going to hold off the tariff on those two countries to see whether or not we're able to make the deal,” said the President during a Thursday afternoon ceremony to sign the order issuing the tariffs.
Surrounded by steel workers at the White House, the president said he’s fulfilling an obligation he made while running for President.
“The American steel and aluminum industry has been ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices. It's really an assault on our country,” President Trump said.
He said he’s defending America's national security by placing tariffs of 25% on foreign steel and 10% on foreign aluminum.
The tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will take effect in 15 days, with Canada and Mexico indefinitely excluded from the duties.
President Trump suggested "other countries" might also be spared, a shift that could soften the international blow amid threats of retaliation by trading partners. Those threats and potential retaliation by trading partners are a major concern for farm commodity groups.
“These tariffs are a disastrous course of action from the White House. They may lead to retaliation by one or more of our valuable trading partners, which in turn will kneecap demand for soybeans in a time when the farm economy is struggling,” said American Soybean Association President and Iowa farmer John Heisdorffer.
“Our competition in Brazil and Argentina is eager to capitalize on whatever openings these tariffs create for them in markets like China and elsewhere,” added Heisdorffer.
Senator Joni Ernst, Republican from Iowa, is urging the President to reconsider. “Our farmers rely on steel and aluminum for the products and equipment that make farms work. Imported products like these are used to keep farm operations moving and making money. Higher prices on such products drastically increases the cost of doing business,” warned Ernst.
And despite dangling the tariff exclusion incentive in front of Canada and Mexico negotiators, the President said he’s still willing to pull the plug on the trade pact. "If we don't make the deal on NAFTA and if we terminate NAFTA, because they're unable to make a deal that's fair for our workers and fair for our farmers - we love our farmers - and fair for our manufacturers, then we're going to terminate NAFTA and we'll start all over again. Or we'll just do it a different way."
Editor’s Note: Additional information provided by Associated Press.