President Donald Trump is tentatively scheduled to unveil sweeping new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as soon as Thursday, while leaving the door open to exempting key U.S. allies, according to a senior administration official.
But there was mass confusion in the White House about the exact timing of the announcement and aides cautioned that the precise details are still being ironed out. A person familiar with the issue said lawyers had not yet finalized the proclamation that would put the tariffs into effect as of Thursday morning, raising questions about how quickly the president would be able to finalize his proposal.
When Trump finally announces the tariffs, he is expected to impose what the administration official described as an “open-ended” exemption for Canada and Mexico that will be reevaluated based on the outcome of negotiations over NAFTA.
Administration officials have also discussed imposing quotas on Mexico and Canada if the countries are granted a long-term exemption from the tariffs, according to the official, though it’s unclear if Trump will get into that level of detail during the announcement.
Trump is hoping to announce tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports during a 3:30 p.m. meeting at the White House with about a dozen steel and aluminum industry workers, officials said. The top-line numbers are unlikely to change over the next few hours, but the timing of the announcement could slip.
As of Thursday morning, no other countries, including European nations, were expected to be granted an immediate exemption from the tariffs, according to the official. But administration officials were planning to include language in the proclamation giving countries some flexibility, potentially allowing individual nations and blocks of countries to make the case for an exemption.
The news last week that Trump was prepared to impose the tariffs set off a global panic, with key U.S. allies like the European Union threatening to retaliate. Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have urged Trump to moderate his position, raising concerns the tariffs could hurt the economy and threaten the GOP’s chances in the upcoming midterm election.
Despite pressure from his own party, Trump has largely resisted efforts to abandon the tariffs altogether, according to people who have spoken to him in recent days.
Still, senior administration officials were scrambling on Thursday to get details about Trump’s pending announcement.
“Looking forward to 3:30 P.M. meeting today at the White House,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. “We have to protect & build our Steel and Aluminum Industries while at the same time showing great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military.”