The Trump administration said Thursday it would exempt the European Union and four other allies — Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea — from steel and aluminum tariffs set to take effect Friday.
President Donald Trump “has decided to pause the imposition of the tariffs with respect to those countries,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told lawmakers at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.
Trump’s announcement of the sweeping tariffs unnerved and infuriated longstanding allies, many of whom had threatened harsh retaliatory actions against U.S. products. The president initially announced that he would exempt Canada and Mexico from the 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent duty on aluminum. But while hinting that other close allies might be given a pass, he offered no criteria for how those decisions would be made.
Lighthizer, however, told senators that Trump agreed, “based on a certain set of criteria, that some countries should get out,” and those are the countries the U.S. has been negotiating with.
The U.S. imports the majority of its steel from Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico.
Lighthizer confirmed the exemptions after Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), ranking member of the committee, pushed for the administration's trade chief to provide clarity on the exemptions process.
“Everybody here wants to be part of the consultation process — we haven’t had much recently,” Wyden said. “Which countries — because it’s going to happen tomorrow — will not have these steel and aluminum tariffs applied to them?”
“It’s the list that I just gave,” Lighthizer responded.
The Commerce Department and USTR have been in talks with several countries about potentially exempting them from the steel and aluminum tariffs.