In an announcement yesterday on the tariffs the U.S. plans to impose, Donald Trump offered some good news: the U.S. will be “very flexible” on tariffs.
During an earlier Cabinet meeting, Trump told reporters that he would be willing to exempt Mexico and Canada from the tariffs if they renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was enacted under former President Bill Clinton.
Trump also indicated that he would also consider exempting from the tariffs any countries that have strong trading and military ties to the United States.
In essence, this means that the tariffs could only apply to countries who don’t already supply the U.S. with aluminum or steel, which would render them effectively meaningless. Of course, that doesn’t matter; as with all of Trump’s work thus far, the purpose is not to actually do anything, but merely to give the appearance of action. Trump can point to the tariffs as an example of his Good Deal Skills™ without pissing off any of the countries we need to continue importing steel and aluminum.
Trump confirmed that he’s “sticking with 10 [percent tariff on aluminum] and 25 [percent on steel] initially,” but also added that he will “have a right to go up or go down depending on the country, and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries.”
So even though the tariffs don’t materially impact any of the United States’ trading partners at the moment, Trump can wield them as a potential penalty if they don’t do what he wants in the future. Sounds like a great way to strengthen America’s relationships abroad.
The proclamation was signed yesterday; as of today, Trump has two weeks to implement them.