President Trump said Friday Australia could be exempt from the newly imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel imports, suggesting Australia’s commitment to a “very fair” and “reciprocal” relationship.
“Spoke to PM @TurnbullMalcolm of Australia. He is committed to having a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship. Working very quickly on a security agreement so we don’t have to impose steel or tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia!” Trump tweeted Friday evening.
The conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull came after the president instituted a tariff of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on all aluminum imports.
The tariffs are set to become effective in 15 days. Initially, only Mexico and Canada were exempt from paying the steep tariffs during negotiations over the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), but the president’s latest tweets seem to suggest Australia will also be exempt.
The administration’s move to impose tariffs came after a nine-month investigation, led by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross from April 2017 through January 2018. The findings revealed that the current level of aluminum and steel imports to the U.S. had the “potential to threaten our national security.”
The U.S. is the world’s largest importer of steel, importing nearly four times as much as it exports, according to the White House. The U.S. imported five times as much primary aluminum as it produced in 2016.
Aluminum is used in a range of weapons and aircraft, and steel is required for aircraft carriers, amphibious force ships, submarines, tanks and light armored vehicles. The White House said the investigation rendered the U.S. “unable” to produce enough steel and aluminum to meet national defense and critical industry needs in the event of a national emergency.
“America will remain open to modifying or removing the tariffs for individual countries,” Trump said Thursday, upon announcing the move. “So long as we can ensure their products no longer threaten our security.”
A senior White House official said that there is language in the president’s proclamation outlining “security relationships” with countries around the globe, and noted they “will be welcome to discuss” with the U.S. “alternate ways” to tariff the imports.