WASHINGTON — Every country granted an exemption from President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will face an import quota and other restrictions, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro said Tuesday.
“The guiding principle of this administration, from the president down to his team, is that any country or entity like the European Union, which is exempt from the tariffs, will have a quota and other restrictions,” he said at a meeting of steel industry executives hosted by the American Iron and Steel Institute and the Steel Manufacturers Association.
Navarro added such measures “are necessary to defend the aluminum and steel industries from imports in defense of our national security.”
The line earned Navarro applause from the steel executives and manufacturers, who support Trump’s steps to restrict the imports under a little-used trade law known as Section 232. Just hours before, Trump had decided to grant Canada, Mexico and the European Union an additional 30 days to work out deals to avoid the penalties — a move that John Ferriola, the CEO of Nucor Corp., earlier labeled “disappointing.”
But the continued focus on quotas and other restrictions is unlikely to be well-received by Canada, Mexico and the EU, which have repeatedly stated that they expect a full exemption from the duties.
Without an extension from Trump, those nations and others that have worked out preliminary deals with the administration would have been hit with tariffs of 25 percent on steel exports to the U.S. and 10 percent on aluminum at midnight.
“Frankly, we’re disappointed,” Ferriola, who also serves as chairman of AISI, said at a press conference before Navarro’s remarks. “We were hoping for the actions to be taken yesterday.”
The additional 30-day delay, he added, “is giving these countries that have been dumping into our country another month to get their steel into our country before their tariffs or quotas go into effect.”
Still, he and Navarro both noted that this extension is the last, and agreements must be worked out by the new deadline of June 1, or the tariffs will go into effect.
For Canada, Mexico and the EU, Navarro’s emphasis that any country escaping the tariffs would face quotas and other restrictions — a line he repeated twice and that he said was the reason he allowed media access — signals the administration’s intention to telegraph its hardball approach.
But Canada and Mexico, which each send more than half their steel production each year into the United States, have repeatedly said that they expect a full exemption from the duties and will not pay a tariff or agree to a quota.
Ferriola said it’s possible that Canada and Mexico could make adequate changes via the updated NAFTA agreement, which is currently being negotiated, in a manner that would “serve the same purpose” as the tariffs.
For the EU, however, no such negotiations are underway, and it remains unclear what can be worked out in the next 30 days. The 28 nations that make up the bloc serve as the largest single supplier of steel to the U.S., sending $6.2 billion across the Atlantic last year.
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The European Commission has already criticized Trump for simply delaying the duties, rather than canceling them outright.
“The U.S. decision prolongs market uncertainty, which is already affecting business decisions,” the Commission said in a statement.
The White House on Tuesday defended the president’s decision to provide more time, saying the negotiations had been extended because “we’ve seen some progress.”
“I’m not going to get ahead of what that may look like, but we have 30 days to continue in those negotiations, and hopeful that we can get something that works for everybody,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a briefing.