By Sarah Gonzalez, Director of Communications and Digital Media
President Donald Trump on March 8 signed a presidential proclamation ordering that the United States impose a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, exempting, for the time being, imports from Canada and Mexico. The tariffs take effect in 15 days.
During a cabinet meeting earlier that day, Trump said he would increase or reduce tariff rates depending on the country and would consider adding or excluding other nations in the future.
“We’re going to be very flexible,” he said. “At the same time, we have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years.”
Trump also had indicated previously during the cabinet meeting that the tariffs would apply to Canada and Mexico, depending on whether an agreement can be reached in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations. “If we reach a deal, it’s most likely we won’t be charging those two countries the tariffs,” Trump said. But the order ultimately issued by the president excluded those two NAFTA trading partners for the time being.
During a Wall Street Journal forum hosted at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 7, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he has concerns about adverse effects from the tariffs on agricultural trade.
He said agriculture constituents appreciate what Trump is doing on such policy issues as deregulation and tax reform, but there “probably are legitimate anxieties over the trade issues.” He added, “I think those of us in the agricultural sector are rightfully concerned and somewhat anxious over retaliatory measures.” He also noted, as he has previously, that agricultural exports typically are on “the tip of the spear” when retaliatory actions are taken by foreign countries.
During the Wall Street Journal event, Perdue said he plans to tell President Trump, “he’s got them just where he wants them” and to use “this off-balance technique here to decide what we would like in exchange for that, whether it’s Mexico, Canada or our EU partners.”
Meanwhile, 107 House Republicans sent a letter on March 7 to Trump “to express deep concern” about the steel and aluminum tariffs. “Adding new taxes in the form of broad tariffs” would undermine tax reform progress, the congressmen wrote. “We urge you to reconsider the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences to the U.S. economy and its workers.”
Meanwhile, a delegation of senators and representatives from Iowa sent their own letter to the president, noting that they represent the second largest agricultural export state. “We are extremely worried the proposed tariffs will have a negative impact on our agricultural economy,” wrote Sens. Joni Ernst (R) and Chuck Grassley (R), and Reps. David Young (R), Rod Blum (R), Dave Loebsack (D) and Steve King (R). “Many experts have warned tariffs will cause corresponding retaliation by our trading partners. This is concerning because the easiest target for retaliation is our agriculture exports.”