President Donald Trump said his administration would take its time in making a long-awaited decision on whether to block steel imports, saying "we don't want to do it at this moment."
Mr. Trump and his Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, had earlier this year said they would complete a plan to reduce steel imports in the name of "national security" by the end of June. But the decision has been stalled amid objections from trading partners, domestic steel users, and some of Mr. Trump's own aides.
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Mr. Trump, in a Wall Street Journal interview Tuesday, said the issue was still on the table, and that "we're going to be addressing the steel dumping," which he called "a very unfair situation." But he backed off promising imminent action. He started to say a move would come "very" soon, but then caught himself and instead changed his wording to "fairly soon."
He indicated that the timetable had gotten bogged down by extensive study and various regulations governing the decision. "You can't just walk in and say I'm doing to do this," Mr. Trump said. "You have to do statutory studies... It doesn't go that quickly."
The president suggested that a final decision on a steel trade policy may have to wait until other top-priority issues on his agenda get addressed, saying: "we're waiting till we get everything finished up between health care and taxes and maybe even infrastructure."
Mr. Trump also spoke during the interview about the North American Free Trade Agreement. He said that while he scuttled a plan in April to pull out of the 23-year-old pact in favor of renegotiation, he still reserved the option to withdraw if the talks with Mexico and Canada aren't settled to his satisfaction.
"We're in the middle of a renegotiation right now, so we'll see," Mr. Trump said. "Maybe we'll have to terminate it."
Asked if he thought Nafta was salvageable," Mr. Trump said: "It may be salvageable...I have an obligation to give it a shot."
The formal renegotiation process is slated to begin Aug. 16 in Washington. Trump aides have said they are aiming to complete the talks by the end of the year.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 25, 2017 17:59 ET (21:59 GMT)