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Are Trump's tariffs legal?

13 March 2018

There is speculation Canada will be exempt from new tariffs on steel and aluminum expected to be announced by US President Donald Trump this afternoon.

Canada's former Ambassador to the United States believes the country has escaped "the guillotine" with Donald Trump's decision to hold off on applying his country's planned steel and aluminum tariffs.

Canada and Mexico were already granted exemptions, although Trump has hinted that he will cancel them if NAFTA renegotiation talks don't make progress soon.

The Trump administration is considering clamping down on Chinese investments in the USA and imposing tariffs on a broad range of its imports to punish Beijing for its alleged theft of intellectual property, according to people familiar with the matter. "This includes steel and aluminum manufacturing jobs which have been battered by China's unfair trade practices for years. That's going to stop", he said. "For a lot of reasons, I'd say it's a risk-[on] for Canada right now". We will again seek an exclusion for this steel to ensure we can protect our business. Canada and Mexico are exempt from the tariffs pending ongoing NAFTA negotiations.

"We have a very close relationship with Australia".

The process of announcing the penalties has been the subject of an intense debate and chaotic exchanges within the White House, pitting hard-liners against free trade advocates such as outgoing economic adviser Gary Cohn aiming to add more flexibility for USA trading partners.

Q: Can other countries request exemptions? A White House official said Trump was referencing an ongoing investigation of China in which the USA trade representative is studying whether Chinese intellectual property rules are "unreasonable or discriminatory" to American business. You don't want to pay tax? Not fair, ? he said.

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"We don't have exact details - it's too soon", said Rio Tinto Canada's manager of media relations, Claudine Gagnon.

Trump said on Twitter he looks forward to the meeting, tweeting, "We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military".

In February, the largest finished steel import permit applications for offshore countries were for South Korea (252,000 NT, down 26 per cent from January preliminary), Germany (111,000 NT, up 23 per cent), Japan (110,000 NT, down 22 per cent), China (85,000 NT, up 18 per cent) and Taiwan (68,000 NT, down 42 per cent).

And according to an official White House readout of Trump's call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday, Trump told his Canadian counterpart that the North American Free Trade Agreement "leaves the United States with a trade deficit". The contentious tariffs will go into effect in 15 days.

The import tariffs are likely to face retaliation from America's top trading partners, the European Union and China.

The prospect of approaching tariffs has set off furious lobbying from governments around the world, who have tried to sway the administration with offers of friendship and threats of retaliation, The New York Times reported.

"We think in light of the facts, and the reality that Canada and the USA share an integrated and balanced relationship in steel, exempting Canada is the most reasonable force of action", the mayor said.

Are Trump's tariffs legal?