President Donald Trump said he would reserve the right to raise or lower tariff rates on steel and aluminum depending on the country as well as the right to add or drop nations at will from the duties.
"I'll 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 — we just want fairness," Trump said at the start of a Cabinet meeting today.
He also said the forthcoming tariffs would apply to Canada and Mexico depending on whether an agreement can be reached in the NAFTA talks. "If we reach a deal, it's most likely we won't be charging those two countries the tariffs," he said.
For now, the president said he will stick with a 25-percent tariff on steel and a 10-percent tariff on aluminum. Trump's authority to impose the tariffs is based on a law that gives the president the power to restrict trade on the basis of national security interests.
Trump indicated he could exclude Australia and other countries from the duties based on their military cooperation and whether the U.S. maintains a positive trade balance with the nations.
"We'll be making a decision as to who they are," Trump said. "We have a very close relationship with Australia. We have a trade surplus with Australia. Great country, long-term partner. We'll be doing something with them. We'll be doing something with some other countries."
"We're going to be very flexible," he said. But he added that the U.S. has both friends and enemies that have treated America unfairly in trade.