Secs. Ross & Mnuchin Give Perspectives on Steel Tariffs
by Tyler Jerke and Sean Shields
On March 8, President Trump signed two proclamations to temporarily increase tariffs on imported steel by 25 percent and aluminum by 10 percent. The new tariffs will take effect March 23, but it’s currently unclear how long they will remain in place and which countries they will ultimately be imposed upon. It is also unclear whether exemptions will be announced for specific steel products.
While the White House initially indicated no country exemptions were going to be given, this latest announcement gives exemptions to Canada and Mexico as long as they give in to certain U.S. demands as the three countries continue their eighth round of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In the first video below, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross discusses (at the 2:34 mark) the U.S. granting exemptions to Canada and Mexico so they will concede to U.S. requests during NAFTA negotiations.
Officials from Canada and Mexico have already said they want the tariff conversations to be separate from the NAFTA negotiations, but all indications point to the U.S. using this as leverage. It’s important to note that the U.S., the world’s largest importer of steel, relies heavily on Canada as its largest source of foreign steel (though, as these videos make clear, most of that steel comes from China).
Ross further discusses (at the 4:05 mark) the 224,000 manufacturing jobs that have come back online over the past year. Along those lines, Republic Steel announced its plans to bring two steel furnaces back online, potentially bringing back an estimated 1,000 jobs.
In the second video, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks (at the 2:00 mark) about the importance of the tariffs for the steel industry.
He then highlights the exemptions of Canada and Mexico (at the 2:40 mark), and further discusses issues with transshipments by Canada and Mexico (at the 3:19 mark). This paints a clearer picture as to why the U.S. believes it prudent to use steel and aluminum tariffs as leverage in the NAFTA negotiations.