Mar 23, 2018

Where Trump's steel and aluminum trade war will hit first

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Note: Includes only products under the "Iron & Steel & Ferroalloy" and "Alumina & Aluminum & Processing" NAICS commodity classifications. Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Chris Canipe and Lazaro Gamio / Axios

The Trump administration has begun imposing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, but several countries are exempted temporarily until May 1, as shown in the chart above. The administration may still apply quotas on exempted countries to prevent a flood of foreign steel and aluminum in the U.S. market, per the White House.

Why it matters: After railroading past a number of his advisors, Trump announced the tariffs on imports of steel (at 25%) and aluminum (at 10%) earlier this month, citing national security concerns. But with the exemption noted above, the tariffs won't carry major bite, at least to start.

The exempted: The EU member countries, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and South Korea.

  • Why exempt them, per Trump: “Each of these countries has an important security relationship with the United States” and the best way forward is to continue conversations exempt them “at least at this time.” Trump left the door open for other countries to negotiate exemptions.

The response:

  • The EU was planning tit-for-tat tariffs on the U.S., and could have expanded them beyond steel and aluminum.
  • South Korea will seek new markets for steel, its trade minister had announced.
  • China announced reciprocal tariffs on $3 billion of imports from the U.S., including on fruit, pork, wine, seafood, and more than 100 other items.

Bottom line: The extent of the effect of the tariffs has yet to be set in stone — the exempted countries are still discussing with the administration what they will ultimately do about their exports to the U.S., and other countries still have the opportunity to either receive exemptions or hit back with reciprocal tariffs.

  • An administration official tells Axios the U.S. is indeed at this time “in discussions with several other countries" on this front.

Go deeper... Trade wars: The effect of Trump’s tariffs

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