President Donald Trump met about a dozen business executives in steel and aluminum, promising to enact tariffs of 25 percent for steel and 10 percent for aluminum in response to cheap foreign imports.
“People have no idea how badly our country has been treated by other countries by people representing us that didn’t have a clue or if they did, then they should be ashamed of themselves,” Trump said. “Because they have destroyed the steel industry.”
Trump touted his new tariffs as a way to restore the greatness of the steel and aluminum industries in the United States.
“We’re bringing it all back,” he said, promising that the tariffs would be signed next week.
Once completed, the enactment of tariffs will signal the first major victory for his fair trade agenda, which has been largely strangled by opposing forces in the White House.
Several White House officials tried to enact a frantic, last-ditch effort to stop Trump’s decision on Thursday, leaking details of dysfunction and division in the White House to the media.
But Trump told reporters that he had made his decision.
The president said he understood why countries like China were dumping cheap steel on the United States, but said that it had to stop. He had strong words for trade agremeents like NAFTA and the WTO.
“The NAFTA deal was a disaster for our country, the WTO has been a disaster for this country,” he said.
Trump said that the China’s rise was directly a result of the World Trade Organiation.
“It has been great for China and terrible for the United States,” he said.
Many of the executives told Trump that they needed a “level playing field” in order to compete with steel and aluminum production in the United States.
“We call it the whack-a-mole game, it’s time for whack-a-mole to end,” Dave Burritt, the CEO of the U.S. Steel Corporation said at the meeting.
Trump said that his deicsion was partially based on the interests of national security.
“When our country can’t make aluminum and steel … you almost don’t have much of a country, because without steel and aluminum the country is not the same,” Trump said. “We need it.”