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Trump may exempt countries from tariffs for NAFTA deal

Trump may exempt countries from tariffs for NAFTA deal

A White House ceremony for President Donald Trump to sign a document to establish tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum is planned for 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, a source familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the exemptions would be made on a "case by case" and "country by country" basis, a reversal from the policy articulated by the White House just days ago that there would be no exemptions from Trump's plan.

On March 1, Trump said the United States will impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum this week, a step he says is meant to revive domestic manufacturing, but the announcement has sparked worries about a global trade war.

The European Union has drawn up a list of United States products - from bourbon to Harley Davidson motorbikes - on which to apply tariffs if Trump goes ahead.

Gary Cohn, Trump's top economic adviser, resigned on Tuesday amid growing rifts over the tariffs.

Mr Cohn plans to stay until the end of the month to help Mr Trump choose a new economic adviser, and would consider returning to the administration for a larger role such as a Cabinet post, the official said. A White House official said Trump was referencing an ongoing investigation of China in which the USA trade representative is studying whether Chinese intellectual property rules are "unreasonable or discriminatory" to American business.

Despite the threat of an impending trade war, Asian shares performed better overnight as the concessions for Canada and Mexico suggested that the policy would not be as severe as feared. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said there was concern Trump's plan could lead to such disruptive turmoil.

Cohn's departure sends shock waves through the GOP, which had hoped Trump would scale back his tariffs on aluminum and steel and focus them on China rather than USA allies. Rob Portman, a Republican from OH and former U.S. trade representative who worked closely with Cohn during the tax reform debate, said he had offered a few names to the White House, hoping to find someone who fit Cohn's mold.

But did hint on Twitter earlier this week that he would reconsider tariffs on Canada and Mexico if a "new & fair NAFTA agreement" is signed.

Not even a week after Trump announced he was slapping new tariffs on aluminum and steel, Hill Republicans have lost a once unlikely but key ally in the White House.

Alberta exports about $500 million in steel to the USA each year. "Because tariffs are taxes that make US businesses less competitive and USA consumers poorer, any tariffs that are imposed should be created to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses and consumers".

Meanwhile, China threatened an "appropriate and necessary response" in any trade war with the US. "All we get for that is a half a trillion dollar a year trade deficit that offshores our wealth, offshores our jobs".

Earlier Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump understands "the potential impact" of the measures on the economy.

China, which ranks 11 among the largest sources of USA steel imports, cautioned that it was prepared to "make an appropriate and necessary response" should the United States impose the tariffs.

The Dow Jones industrial average, after falling more than 300 points during the session, closed off 83 points, a drop of one-third of 1 percent.

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