The White House announced that it would end a two-month exemption for the EU, Canada and Mexico from the 25% steel and 10% aluminum import tariffs announced in March, once again pointing to national security concerns as a primary motivating factor.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said during a call with reporters on Thursday that slow progress on the NAFTA renegotiation is another reason why Canada and Mexico will now be subject to the import tariffs.
The tariffs will go into effect on the trio of countries at midnight.
The decision sparks new concerns of a trade war with three of the United States’ most important trading partners.
When asked about the possibility of escalating tensions, Ross said it would be up to the other countries to respond in kind to the president’s decision Thursday. He also said the administration is eager to stay at the negotiating table with all three countries.
Three other countries that were exempted from the initial tariff implementation – Argentina, Australia and Brazil – will be subject to arranged limitations on the volumes of steel and aluminum they can ship, instead of facing the import levies.
Meanwhile, the commerce secretary said he plans to go to China for trade talks on Friday, another country with which the U.S. has developed an extremely tense relationship over trade differences under the Trump administration.