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Trump imposes harsh tariffs on steel but implies the UK could be let off

PRESIDENT Donald Trump imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports last night  – but hinted that defence allies such as the UK could be spared. The US leader announced that the proposed hike…

PRESIDENT Donald Trump imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports last night  – but hinted that defence allies such as the UK could be spared.

The US leader announced that the proposed hikes - which include 25 per cent on steel imports and ten per cent on aluminium – would take effect in 15 days.

AFP or licensors

Trump celebrates in the Oval Office after signing the executive order that imposes the new trade tariffs

Canada and Mexico will be exempt from the new policy as “special cases” and all countries will be invited to negotiate their position on the tariffs.

Trump indicated that military allies - including NATO countries who spend a minimum of two per cent of GDP on defence - could see a reduction in the tariffs.

The UK is one of a handful of nations that meets that requirement.

Boris Johnson spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about tariffs earlier this week – where the UK was expected to have made representations for a “carve out” similar to Canada and Mexico.

AFP or licensors

Boris Johnson has been speaking with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson to carve out a potential deal for the UK

The Foreign Secretary, reacting to Trump’s imposition of the tariffs, said yesterday: “We don't think that tariffs on UK steel are a good idea.”

He added that it would be “most welcome” for the US President to rethink the policy.

Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC Question Time last night that the approach was "wrong".

Trump announced the tariffs yesterday – saying the US was addressing an “assault on our country”.

He said they were needed to preserve the American industries and protect national security
But the controversial move sparked backlash with critics claiming he was starting a dangerous trade war with the world.

PA:Press Association

Theresa May has been criticised for not taking a strong enough stance on Trump

His respected economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned earlier this week, in opposition to the tariffs.

The UK steel sector exported some 350,000 tonnes to the US in 2017.

Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director, last night warned that the new tariffs could hurt the industry in Britain.

He said: “The UK sector is in the midst of a fragile recovery following years of considerable turmoil, it would be utterly devastating if this were to be undermined.

“Imposing such measures on US allies in the name of national security is difficult to comprehend.”

Theresa May told Trump of her concerns over the tariff plan on the weekend and warned against starting a trade war with the EU.

But the PM was criticised for “letting down” steelworkers last night.


Trump has suggested that countries in both NATO, which includes the UK, could present an argument to get around tariffs.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock said: “President Trump’s signing of an Executive Order imposing steel tariffs is a milestone moment for the future of the British steel industry and for the future of the rules-based global economy.

“And once again, our government and Prime Minister have been found wanting.

Theresa May has, again, let down British steelworkers.

“Earlier this week, Trump talked about exemptions for Canada, Mexico and Australia.

“That the United Kingdom was missing from that list shows how weak and isolated the Prime Minister has become and we risk becoming as a country.”

Trump announced the new tariffs in front of a group of steel workers yesterday.

He had earlier said: “We're going to be very fair, we're going to be very flexible but we're going to protect the American worker as I said I would do in my campaign.”

He was his tariffs would “have a right to go up or down depending on the country and I'll have a right to drop out countries or add countries”.

Trump added: “I just want fairness.”

The president indicated Canada and Mexico's treatment would be connected to the ongoing North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks.

Exclusions for both countries could be ended if US-led talks to renegotiate NAFTA stall.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added that exemptions would be made on a “case by case” and “country by country” basis.