Proclamations signed by President Donald J. Trump on March 8, 2018, have exempted steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico from new tariffs being levied on imported metal. The new tariffs, to go into effect in late March 2018, put a 25 percent levy on imported steel and 10 percent levy on imported aluminum.
An online report from CNBC indicates exemptions for Canada and Mexico have not been given a deadline, but the president also has indicated they “are not open-ended.”
The president also stated the continuation of the exemptions for the two neighboring nations will depend on progress in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Discussions between the United States, Canada and Mexico to renegotiate NAFTA have been ongoing in 2017 and 2018.
News reports have indicated the president sees deferring the tariffs temporarily as a way to spur the governments of Canada and Mexico into speeding up the NAFTA renegotiation process. “I have a feeling we’re going to make a deal on NAFTA,” Trump was quoted as saying at the March 8 proclamation signing ceremony.
Since President Trump announced the tariffs, Chicago-based primary aluminum producer Century Aluminum has announced it will ramp up production from 40 percent of capacity to closer to 100 percent at its Hawesville, Kentucky, facility. “We look forward to [beginning] the process of restarting the idled potlines at our Hawesville, Kentucky, smelter, bringing back nearly 300 new American jobs to Hancock County, and investing over $100 million to restart and upgrade the smelter’s technology,” states Century Aluminum President and CEO Michael Bless.
In the steel sector, Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has announced it will restart one of two blast furnaces at its integrated steelmaking complex in Granite City, Illinois, near St. Louis. “The additional capacity will support anticipated increased demand for steel in the United States from the pending action announced by President Donald J. Trump on March 1, 2018, as a result of the U.S. Department of Commerce Section 232 national security investigation on steel imports,” the company states in its news release announcing the restart.
In addition to the exceptions for the two NAFTA trading partners, the Trump administration has indicated it will create an appeals process for other nations to justify why they should be exempt from the tariffs, according to CNBC.
“If the same goals can be accomplished by other means, America will remain open to modifying or removing the tariffs for individual nations, as long as we can agree on a way to ensure that their products no longer threaten our security,” the news agency quotes Trump as stating. “We're going to show great flexibility,” he adds.