WASHINGTON (AP) - Determined to protect vital American industries, President Donald Trump declared Thursday that he will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, dramatically raising the possibility of a trade showdown with China and other key trading partners.
Trump summoned steel and aluminum executives to the White House and told them that next week he would levy penalties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports. Those tariffs, he said, will remain for “a long period of time.” But it was not immediately clear if the tariffs would exempt certain trading partners.
“What’s been allowed to go on for decades is disgraceful. It’s disgraceful,” Trump told them in the Cabinet Room. “You will have protection for the first time in a long while and you’re going to regrow your industries.”
Increased foreign production, especially by China, has driven down prices and hurt U.S. producers, creating a situation the Commerce Department calls a national security threat.
Any action to impose tariffs is likely to escalate simmering tensions with China and other U.S. trading partners. Critics of such a move fear that other countries will retaliate or use national security as a pretext to impose trade penalties of their own. They also argue that sanctions on imports will drive up prices and hurt U.S. automakers and other companies that use steel or aluminum.
Plans for Trump to make an announcement were thrown into doubt earlier because of internal wrangling over the decision. Some White House officials, including chief of staff John Kelly, were not fully briefed on the Commerce Department’s plans, according to a senior administration official familiar with the process. This official was not authorized to discuss the internal deliberations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.