U.S. Imposes Steel and Aluminum Tariffs on European Union, Canada, and Mexico

May 31, 2018 Updated: June 23, 2018

The United States imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico effective on June 1.

The White House has already imposed a global tariff of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports in March, but temporarily exempted the duties for Europe, Canada, and Mexico. The exemptions expired as of midnight May 31.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the tariffs in a call with reporters. The measures are aimed at allowing the American steel and aluminum industries to increase their capacity utilization rates above 80 percent for the first time in years.

“We look forward to continued negotiations, both with Canada and Mexico on the one hand, and with the European Commission on the other hand, because there are other issues that we also need to get resolved,” Ross said.

President Donald Trump announced the tariffs in March as part of an effort to protect U.S. industry and workers from what he described as unfair international competition. Temporary exemptions were granted to a number of nations and permanent ones to several countries including Australia, Argentina, and South Korea.

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A red-hot steel plate passes through a press at the ArcelorMittal steel plant in Ghent, Belgium, May 22, 2018. (Reuters/Yves Herman/File Photo)

The Trump administration is currently renegotiating trade terms with a host of countries.

An American delegation recently traveled to China to negotiate a trade deal with the goal of reducing a massive trade deficit. On Wednesday, the White House announced that it will impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The administration is also renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

And last week, the United States launched a national security investigation into car and truck imports, using the same 1962 law that is being used to curb incoming steel and aluminum.

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An operator uses a hoist to lift a coil of aluminum at the Neuf-Brisach Constellium aluminum products company’s production unit in Biesheim, Eastern France, April 9, 2018. (Reuters/Vincent Kessler)

American steel and aluminum companies rebooted idling furnaces and called back hundreds of workers after Trump announce the tariffs in March. Stocks of American steel and aluminum companies rallied after Thursday’s announcement.

The European Union, Canada, and Mexico were predictably unhappy about the tariffs.

“Today, France and the EU disapprove, of course, these measures,” France’s junior trade minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne told reporters in Paris. “We are getting ready to put in place safeguards, rebalancing measures because we won’t let unjustifiable and unjustified measures go unanswered.”

The Mexican peso weakened by more than 1 percent against the dollar, briefly crossing the 20-to-the-dollar threshold to the weakest versus the greenback in 14 months.

“The decision announced today is a significant threat to the 22,000 Canadian households whose livelihoods are directly supported by employment in Canadian steel,” said Joseph Galimberti, president of the Canadian Steel Producers Association.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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