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Donald Trump won't exclude allies from tariffs on steel and aluminium, says senior White House official

Washington: US president Donald Trump plans to apply tariffs on import of steel and aluminium globally without exempting allies from it, a senior White House official has said, amid global outrage against the decision. Trump on Thursday said that he would impose a 25 percent import tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminium to protect US producers.

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

The announcement to impose heavy tariff angered key US allies: Canada, the EU, Australia, Mexico. European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker vowed the bloc "will react firmly" to defend its interests. Canada and Germany both termed the tariffs "unacceptable". Amid the outrage, a senior White House official said Trump plans to apply his steel and aluminium tariffs globally and won’t exempt allies.

“The president in his discussion yesterday with the executives made it clear that this would be an across the board tariff and there would be no exclusions in terms of countries. One problem with the exclusions is that it's a slippery slope and you don't know where to stop," a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call. “The other practical problem is that as you begin to exclude some countries, you have to then have higher tariffs on the rest of the countries. His views is that this is not about countries, it is about defending our national security, economic security in this particular situation,” the official said.

But there will be an exemption process not in terms of some countries, but possible situations, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity The official said this is part of the tough trade policy that Trump had promised during his election campaign. On Thursday, Trump said that he will sign a executive order next week and impose 25 percent import tariff on steel and 10 percent on aluminium.

The official strongly refuted reports that this will lead to rising prices in products. "From an economic standpoint, there are virtually no impacts other than positive ones for industries we need?," the official said. Trump is pursuing actions that would effectively level playing field with rest of the world and at the same time, and importantly in this case, enhance America’s national and economic security, said the senior administration official.

“His preliminary decision is across the board tariff: 25 percent on steel import and 10 percent on aluminium imports with no country exclusions and across the board. And that was the decision he reached,” the official said. The official explained that there would be virtually no increase in cost of cars in the country as a result of the new aluminium tariffs. “The reality is that a 10 percent tariff on aluminium would only increase the price of an entire six pack of beer by a little over a penny. It's virtually nothing,” the official said. He said the imposition of new tariff on import of aluminium and steel would create new jobs in the industry.

“They are high wage jobs, high skill jobs. So the bottom line is there's no price effects, there is no job affects,” he said. According to him, the US is being treated unfairly non-reciprocal trade practices, even as the US has one of the lowest tariffs in the world. The net result of that is a half a trillion-trade deficit. “So all we're doing here is defending this country against a global economic trading environment, which disadvantages, in this particular case, in a way which poses a threat to our national security or economic security,” the official said. Trump has defended his decision, saying "trade wars are good".

He tweeted that the US was "losing billions of dollars on trade" and would find a trade war "easy to win". In a tweet early on Friday, Trump said the US would "win big" in a trade war. He later followed this up with further tweets, saying the US must "protect our country and our workers" and that the trade deficit left him with no choice on tariffs.

Updated Date: Mar 03, 2018 14:53 PM

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