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Trump grants tariff exemptions for Mexico and Canada

President Donald Trump turns to outgoing National Economic Council Chairman Gary Cohn, center, during a Cabinet meeting at the White House today in Washington, D.C. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

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The White House will follow through on its plan to levy tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, President Donald Trump said during a cabinet meeting today – but it will grant temporary exemptions for imports from Canada and Mexico.

The carveouts for Mexico and Canada will be dependent on progress in negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement. 

“If we reach a [NAFTA] deal, it’s most likely that we won’t be charging those two countries the tariffs,” he said. The White House is expected to formally announce the measures later today.

Imports from all other countries will face a 25 percent tariff for steel and 10 percent for aluminum, though the president said other allies and trading partners will also be able to apply for exemptions.

“We’re sticking with 10 and 25 initially. I’ll have a right to go up or down, depending on the country and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries,” Trump said.

Allowing country exemptions is a notable departure from the broader tariffs Trump was said to favor last week, but which drew fast criticism from trading partners around the world who threatened to retaliate with tariffs of their own.

The European Union has already identified U.S. blue jeans, bourbon, and motorcycles as possible targets.

“If you put tariffs against what are your allies, one wonders who the enemies are,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said at a press conference in Frankfurt.

The Trump administration has argued that protecting domestic steel and aluminum is a matter of national security, despite acknowledging that U.S. military requirements for steel and aluminum require only 3 percent of domestic production.

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