By Bloomberg
March 4, 2018

Certain exemptions could be made to the tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum announced by President Donald Trump but exclusions for entire countries aren’t expected, the top White House trade adviser said.

“There’s a difference between exemptions and country exclusions,” Peter Navarro, director of the National Trade Council at the White House, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “There’ll be an exemption procedure for particular cases where you need to have exemptions so that business can move forward, but at this point in time, there’ll be no country exclusions.”

Navarro didn’t specify under what circumstances exemptions may be considered. Trump is expected to sign a formal order for the tariffs in the coming week, or the week after that at the latest, after all legalities are finalized, Navarro said.

He defended Trump’s decision to set levies of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, a move that rocked financial markets and which critics say threatens U.S. jobs and ignites the possibility of a global trade war.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who blanketed the airwaves on Friday to defend the tariffs, continued to press on Trump’s behalf and to downplay the possible impact of the move on U.S. consumer prices and jobs.

Beer Prices

“We’re talking about a fraction of a penny,” on the impact on American consumers, Ross said on NBC’s “Meet the Press. “Retaliation isn’t going to change the price on a can of beer.”

The tariffs are part of Trump’s plan to counter what he says are decades of unfair trade practices and ill-advised trade agreements that have robbed the U.S. of revenue and jobs. During his first year as president, Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership and threatened to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada unless changes are made.

“Our jobs and wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of us for years,” Trump said Saturday on Twitter. “They laugh at what fools our leaders have been. No more!”

Some free-trade proponents have been hoping that Trump will reverse himself, much as the president has done in regard to past issues such as gun control and keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan. But the media stops by Ross and Navarro suggest the president plans to press ahead despite opposition from close allies, fellow Republicans, and even some members of his administration, including Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council.

‘Up to Gary’

Responding to a question on whether Cohn might quit in response to the tariff decision, Navarro said it’s “up to Gary whether he goes or stays.”

Already -volatile markets swooned after Trump announced the tariffs, with the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 Index falling more than 1.3 percent that day. Foreign officials threatened retaliation, including European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who said the bloc would target imports of iconic U.S. merchandise such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Levi Strauss jeans.

Trump remains undeterred so far. In a Friday morning tweet, the President wrote that “trade wars are good and easy to win.”

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