White House eyes tariff exemptions for Mexico, Canada on national security grounds

Trump heading back to the Oval Office at the White House, March 7, 2018.
Trump heading back to the Oval Office at the White House, March 7, 2018. PHOTO: NYTIMES

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG) – The US may exempt countries based on national security considerations from steep tariffs on steel and aluminium imports that President Donald Trump plans to impose, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday (March 7).

“There are potential carve outs for Canada and Mexico based on national security and possibly other countries as well. That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis,” Sanders told reporters at the White House.

Sanders didn’t elaborate on how those determinations would be made and didn’t answer when asked which countries would qualify.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg TV that the administration is drafting the official paperwork for the tariffs, and they could be announced as soon as Thursday, but also possibly Friday.

Mnuchin declined to discuss any specific countries that may be exempt from the tariffs on a national security basis.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier on Wednesday signalled that the administration is open to exempting countries besides Mexico and Canada, though he didn’t mention national security as a criteria that would be used.

Ross cited a statement earlier in the week when Trump said he would be willing to exempt Mexico and Canada in exchange for cooperation on Nafta renegotiations.

“The President indicated that if we can work something out with Canada and Mexico, they will be exempted. It’s not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis,” Ross said in an interview.