March 8 (UPI) — President Donald Trump on Thursday, joined by steel and aluminum workers at the White House, imposed his promised industrial tariffs — 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on foreign-made aluminum.
Trump signed the tariff proclamations in a meeting with industry workers and officials — ushering in fiscal penalties that have drawn ire from world leaders and sparked fears of a trade war.
“A nation that does not protect property at home cannot protect its property abroad,” Trump said.
The White House said Canada and Mexico will initially be excluded from the tariffs, which will take effect March 23 — and will contain a clause to recognize relationships with other countries and offer some flexibility, while not imposing a national security or economic threat to the United States.
Senior administration official Peter Navarro said the process was an “extremely well-vetted approach of defending our industries” using the Section 232 investigation as basis.
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 grants the president authority to limit or restrict imports deemed to impact the domestic economy or national security.
The Trump administration said the tariffs fulfill a campaign promise to protect American industry workers.
“A promise made is a promise kept,” Navarro said.
Officials said the tariffs are a result of multiple White House meetings between April and January, at which Trump, administration officials and stakeholders discussed the issue. The White House said the tariffs are needed because steel and aluminum are a a critical part of the U.S. defense base, as well as infrastructure.
Navarro said the move will help strengthen U.S. industries that have a $70 billion trade deficit. Administration officials said with more than 90 percent of aluminum used in U.S. industry coming from foreign markets, the domestic industry is near extinction.
The White House noted that more than 50,000 U.S. jobs have been lost in the steel industry and 40,000 in aluminum since 2000.
“When it comes to a time when our country can’t make aluminum and steel you almost don’t have a country,” Trump said.
The tariffs will not lead to significant price increases for U.S. goods, Navarro said — noting, for example, the difference for a six-pack of aluminum cans of beer or soda will only be about 2 cents. A Boeing 777, he said, could cost about $25,000 more to produce based on the airliner’s $330 million price tag.
Administration officials said that because there are no significant downstream price effects, the tariffs won’t harm U.S. jobs in the steel and aluminum industries. On Wednesday, U.S. Steel announced it would reactivate one of its plants in Illinois and rehire hundreds of workers as a result of Trump’s action.
“American steel and aluminum made with American hands is in the interest of national security,” Navarro said.
As Trump signed the proclamations, Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., spoke against the tariffs and said he intends to introduce legislation to nullify them.
“These so-called ‘flexible tariffs’ are a marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth – protectionism and uncertainty. Trade wars are not won, they are only lost,” he said in a statement. “Congress cannot be complicit as the administration courts economic disaster. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs, and I urge my colleagues to pass it before this exercise in protectionism inflicts any more damage on the economy.”