Trump faces US business, foreign pressure

US Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday joined the ranks of Republicans warning President Donald Trump his threats to tax imports of steel, aluminum, and possibly European carmakers would harm US consumers and manufacturers.

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump, after shocking markets with the risk of a global trade war, came under intense pressure from United States business interests and foreign trading partners to moderate his threat to slap tariffs on steel and aluminium imports.

Mr Trump last Friday dispatched pro-tariff advisers Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro to TV news studios to defend his plan, while White House aides scrambled to downplay the prospect of free trade advocate and National Economic Council director Gary Cohn - the top White House economic adviser - resigning over the matter.

Mr Cohn is part of a faction in Mr Trump's administration that warned the Republican President for months not to threaten the 25 per cent steel and 10 per cent aluminium tariffs that he pledged to impose in a chaotic announcement last Thursday.

There was speculation that Mr Cohn - who told Mr Trump the markets would slump on a tariff threat - might step down as a result of Mr Trump's decision, but there was no indication of a such a move anytime soon, a senior White House official said.

Mr Cohn, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and others for months had tried to steer Mr Trump away from aggressive tariffs, but the President resisted their counsel, a senior administration official said.

Interviews with large trade associations, as well as lobbyists who represent firms in several industries, indicated that back-channel discussions were underway, with companies trying to convince the White House and Commerce Department to include key exemptions in the coming official tariff policy.

Industry groups want exemptions for imports from individual countries or for types of metals that cannot be found in the United States, the lobbyists said.

Companies that use cans for products like drinks or soup were among the most vocal opponents.

"Like most brewers, we are selling an increasing amount of our beers in aluminium cans. This action will cause aluminium prices to rise, and is likely to lead to job losses across the beer industry," said MillerCoors spokesman Colin Wheeler.

Can manufacturers plan to pressure lawmakers and administration officials this week.

Mr Trump last Thursday said his tariff plan would safeguard American jobs in the face of cheaper foreign products, and would be formally announced this week.

Mr Navarro, director of the White House National Trade Council, when asked about Mr Trump's plan, told Fox News: "We have the lowest tariffs in the world... and what do we get for that? We get a half-trillion dollar-a-year trade deficit."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 04, 2018, with the headline 'Trump faces US business, foreign pressure'. Subscribe