White House National Trade Council Director Peter Navarro said national security is the primary reason behind ending the two-month exemption from U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs for Europe, Canada and Mexico.
“This particular action on steel and aluminum is not about unfair trade practices. It's about national security… without an aluminum steel industry, we don't have a country,” Navarro said during a FOX Business interview on the “After the Bell” program on Thursday.
Navarro added that imposing tariffs on the nation's closest allies is an opportunity to create jobs.
“All we are trying to do here with the 232 tariffs is to provide our domestic industries an opportunity to earn a decent rate of return and invest in this country,” he said.
Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 allows tariffs to be placed on imports to protect national security. The White House said in a statement that the steel and aluminum tariffs have already had a positive effects on workers and jobs.
According to Navarro, the president’s decision to end the exemptions is not about China or unfair trade but more about defending the U.S. against countries who are running a large trade surplus at the expense of American jobs.
“What we have is about 15 counties in the aluminum space and about 20 in the steel space who basically are sending a flood of imports into this country,” he said.
Navarro said it was unfortunate that the U.S. couldn’t come to an agreement with Europe, Canada and Mexico, adding that giving any one country preferential treatment would result in a significant increase in domestic production of steel and aluminum in that country.
“They chose not to offer a reasonable quota, and we had to put the tariffs on,” he said.