Trump orders new tariffs, with exemptions for Mexico and Canada


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said he was enacting steel and aluminum tariffs Thursday, capping off a week's worth of controversy over his plans to impose the new trade penalties. 

"Today I'm defending America's national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel," the president said in the White House's Roosevelt Room, flanked by steel and aluminum workers. “...Steel is steel. You don’t have steel, you don’t have a country.” 

The tariffs — 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum — will take effect Mar. 23, a senior administration official told reporters by phone Thursday afternoon. 

Mexico and Canada received immediate exemptions from the tariffs, but the senior administration official stressed that "all countries will be welcome to discuss" other possible ways to address "alternative means" of remedying the threat to national security caused by imports from that country. 

On Thursday morning, Trump added Australia to the list of allied nations that could see some sort of exemption from the penalties, telling reporters as he wrapped up a Cabinet meeting that the policy would be a "flexible" one. 

The Mexico and Canada exemptions come in the context of the ongoing NAFTA renegotiation, the official said, without putting a specific timeline on how long those exceptions might last. 

Trump first announced the Thursday afternoon event — which had not previously been listed on the White House's official schedule — Thursday morning on Twitter, saying that new protections for these industries would show "great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military.” 

In the immediate aftermath of the tweet, it was still unclear — even to many within the administration — precisely what would happen at the event, a White House official told NBC News. Mid-afternoon, the administration announced that the president would use the event to officially move forward on the new policy. 

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Impact of Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs
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Impact of Trump's proposed steel and aluminum tariffs
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: A trader is comforted by a coworker as they work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Wine in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Members of trade unions hold a protest against US President Donal Trump's import surcharge on Brazilian steel and in defense of their employment, outside the US Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2018. Since announcing last week plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, Trump has shrugged off threats from many nations, including China, Canada, Brazil and Mexico among others. / AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL (Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Beer in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and press secretary Sarah Sanders listen as U.S. President Donald Trump announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Members of trade unions hold a protest against US President Donal Trump's import surcharge on Brazilian steel and in defense of their employment, outside the US Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on March 5, 2018. Since announcing last week plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminium, Trump has shrugged off threats from many nations, including China, Canada, Brazil and Mexico among others. / AFP PHOTO / Miguel SCHINCARIOL (Photo credit should read MIGUEL SCHINCARIOL/AFP/Getty Images)
Chairman, CEO and president of Nucor John Ferriola and U.S. Steel CEO Dave Burritt flank U.S. President Donald Trump as he announces that the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on imported aluminum during a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 1, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 02: Wine in aluminum cans is displayed on a shelf at Ales Unlimited on March 2, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Beverage companies that use aluminum for canned drinks are concerned that tariffs proposed by US President Donald Trump could result in higher prices for consumers and job cuts across the industry. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 1: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on March 1, 2018 in New York City. Major stock indexes plunged Thursday afternoon following President Trump's announcement that he was imposing a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Investor concern about the news rattled the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed down more than 400 points. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
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While the White House has repeatedly said these tariffs should come as no surprise, the news has riled many GOP lawmakers, U.S. trade partners, and even some inside Trump's own White House. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn resigned Tuesday following the president's unexpected announcement that he planned to enact the trade penalties. 

On Thursday morning, Trump praised and knocked Cohn in the same breath, saying he was "terrific" despite being "a globalist... but in his own way he's a nationalist, because he loves our country." Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs banker and a registered Democrat from New York, was tagged as a "globalist" by detractors in and outside the White House who used it pejoratively to signal that he was opposed to Trump's more populist or "nationalist" economic message during the 2016 campaign.

Trump added that Cohn, on hand for Thursday's Cabinet meeting, would "maybe come back" to the administration, but not in his previous role of top economic advisor because "he's not quite as strong on those tariffs as we want." 

Cohn has had plenty of company. Many Republicans tried publicly and privately this week to lobby the White House against tariffs, fearing retaliation from trade partners that could escalate to a trade war. 

But a senior administration official fired back Thursday at the “lobbyists and the politicians and the swamp creatures within the perimeter of the Beltway” who decried the move in recent days, ripping their concerns as “all fake news.” 

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