Senior Republicans urge Trump to back down on tariffs

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Yesterday, Canada was granted a temporary exemption from USA tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

The steel tariff threat was seen by many to be an attempt by the Trump administration to pressure Canada and Mexico to complete the NAFTA talks - giving in to other US demands or giving up some of their own -rather than risk the punishing steel and aluminum duties.

Trump has said the tariffs are needed to preserve the American industries and protect national security, but he also has tried to use them as leverage in the current talks to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, negotiated under President Bill Clinton.

And I get it. Trump's tariffs are unlikely to do much good, as any benefit to domestic steel and aluminum producers is likely to be greatly outweighed by the harm to domestic steel and aluminum consumers.

By law, the tariffs need to be described as a national security matter. But the White House has repeatedly undermined its own legal case, including by intimating that the tariffs would be held over Canada and Mexico as some kind of negotiating tool to extract NAFTA concessions. "It's not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters. "A cost increase of this magnitude will drive consumers directly into the arms of Japanese auto makers", said Dias. "If it came from anyone other than Donald Trump himself, then it was an illegally large, or perhaps an illegal corporate, political contribution". On Thursday, China's foreign minister, Wang Yi, vowed a "justified and necessary response" to any efforts to incite a trade war.

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Lawmakers opposed to the tariffs, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, have suggested more narrowly focused approaches to target Chinese imports. This would help the president say he delivered on his promise and still try to avoid possible negative consequences, said Stephen Moore, a former campaign adviser and now an economist with the conservative Heritage Foundation. Mexican federal elections scheduled for July 1 and USA congressional elections in the fall are adding pressure, as changes of government as a result of either could affect both getting a deal and getting it ratified.

"The short answer is, we don't know the specifics yet", said Orr, who was assistant USA trade representative in President George H.W. Bush's administration. Pat Roberts, R-Kan. "I don't think he's reconsidering, but I think he's trying to figure out what his best step is forward".

President and CEO of the Aluminium Association of Canada, Jean Simard, said the problem wasn't the export of Canadian aluminium to the US, rather the export of aluminium from China.

"Many said they feared tit-for-tat retaliation which could spiral out of control, damaging the global economy and the multilateral trading system", WTO spokesman Keith Rockwell said.

The EU said it was prepared to respond to any tariffs with counter-measures against US products such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Levi's jeans and bourbon. Trump has told associates the tariffs could be helpful to the GOP cause in the election in the heart of steel country.

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