U.S. Restores Steel, Aluminum Tariffs on Argentina and Brazil

Date: December 2, 2019
Source: Wall Street Journal

MEMA Industry News Editor’s Note: MEMA has consistently opposed Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum. We will review the full, official details of this action and report on the potential impact on our industry.

WASHINGTON—President Trump on Monday said he would restore tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina, saying both nations have been devaluing their currencies.

Mr. Trump made the announcement, which hadn’t been expected, on Twitter. “Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies, which is not good for our farmers,” the president wrote.

“Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries,” Mr. Trump said.

The White House didn’t immediately release an order outlining the changes. Mr. Trump has previously ratcheted up and down the steel tariffs on Turkey and other countries in moves attributed to everything from foreign-exchange policy abroad to the detention of an American evangelical pastor in Turkey.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he would discuss Mr. Trump’s measure with Economy Minister Paulo Guedes and reach out to the American president if necessary. “I have an open channel of communication with Trump,” he said to reporters Monday.

The move comes as Mr. Trump has sought to strike a limited “phase one” deal with China that would likely remove some tariffs on that country, and also as the administration is seeking congressional approval of a new North American trade pact.

The steel and aluminum tariffs were imposed globally in 2018 in a move that preceded the trade war on China. Some economies—including the European Union, Canada and Mexico—received temporary exemptions from the tariffs that were later removed, subjecting their metals to the duties.

After repeated intervention from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) and other senior Republican lawmakers, Mr. Trump removed the metals duties on Canada and Mexico, paving the way for possible ratification of a new North American trade agreement known as the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Argentina and Brazil quickly hammered out deals with the Trump administration to obtain exemptions to the steel and aluminum tariffs, but other economies, including the EU and China, have long been subject to the duties.

The Trump administration has used a national-security law known as Section 232 to impose the tariffs, and many lawmakers have criticized the use of the law, which is facing a federal court challenge, because it penalizes countries and allies that aren’t always accused of shipping dumped or subsidized steel.

Mr. Trump has defended the tariffs as a way to protect steel and aluminum producers in the U.S. from cheap imported metals. He announced his 2016 trade policy at a metals factory in the traditional steel-producing region of Pennsylvania.

—Juan Forero in Bogota, Colombia, contributed to this article.

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