Trump imposes steel, aluminum tariffs

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April 4, 2018
Surrounded by steel and aluminum workers, President Donald Trump signs an order mandating 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% tariffs on imported aluminum.

In a move that automakers say could increase vehicle costs, President Donald Trump has enacted 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% tariffs on imported aluminum (see infographic, pg. 14) to protect those metals industries from China and other exporters that Trump accuses of dumping steel on the U.S. market.

Mexico and Canada are exempt from the tariffs for now, but Trump has said he could apply the duties to those countries if talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) don’t make more progress. Before signing the tariff order, Trump had implied that no country would be exempt. Other U.S. allies can apply to be exempted from the tariffs, which were set to become active on March 23, 2018.

“Profitable and viable domestic aluminum and steel industries are important to our national security so that the United States can meet demand for steel and aluminum for national defense and critical industries with domestic sources,” Trump said.

The president’s action followed a report from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross that claimed low-cost imports of steel and aluminum were undermining domestic production and threatening national security. Ross’ recommendation of steep tariffs targeted getting U.S. steel and aluminum mills to about 80% capacity utilization.

Automakers, other steel users, free-trade Republicans in Congress, and several business groups criticized the cuts, saying they were applied too broadly instead of being targeted at China, and noting that the number of manufacturing workers in metal-consuming industries far outstrip the number of workers in metal-producing companies.

“A tariff is a tax that will result in higher prices that consumers will ultimately bear,” said John Bozzella, president and CEO of Global Automakers, an organization that represents German, Japanese, and Korean automakers with plants in the U.S. “Exemptions will not address the fundamental problems tariffs will create for U.S. car and truck manufacturing. Increased costs will make our industry less competitive and harm American workers, consumers, and our economy.”

China and other countries have threatened to enact counter-tariffs on key U.S. goods including blue jeans, motorcycles, and bourbon. Several countries have also pledged to oppose the U.S. for the tariffs through the World Trade Organization (WTO). www.globalautomakers.org; www.whitehouse.gov; www.wto.org

California allows driverless cars on public roads

Test autonomous vehicles can use California roads without a driver behind the wheel who can take over in emergency situations, due to new rules that were set to become active on April 2, 2018.

“This is a major step forward for autonomous technology in California,” California Department of Motor Vehicles Director Jean Shiomoto says.

Testing regulations that require a driver behind the steering wheel took effect in September 2014. To date, 50 manufacturers have permits to test autonomous vehicles with a driver. www.dmv.ca.gov