US President Donald Trump has indicated that Australia would soon be exempted from his decision to impose a 25 per cent tariff on import of steel and 10 per cent on aluminium. That was what he referenced in a June 2016 campaign speech in Pittsburgh, which many in his administration are pointing to now to suggest they've fulfilled a campaign promise.
He said: "We call for calm-headed behaviour". "At the same time, we have some friends and some enemies where we have been tremendously taken advantage of over the years on trade and on military", he said. "The key risk is that this then pushes the U.S.to escalate tensions and counter-retaliate outside of World Trade Organization supervision'".
Zhong, speaking on the sidelines of China's annual session of parliament, said China does not want a trade war and will not initiate one.
In Brussels, the capital of the European Union, Saturday's meetings appeared inconclusive.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC in an interview on March 9 that President Donald Trump will take national security into account in deciding which countries to exempt from the tariffs, and he noted that Trump wants to see North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies spend more on defense. "I do think the possibility of NAFTA partners walking away from the table mattered quite a bit", the lobbyist said.
Trump sees the WTO, effectively the Supreme Court of trade, as pro China and anti American and isn't at all anxious that protectionist moves by him could lead to a trade war.
Less than 24 hours after White House adviser Peter Navarro declared that there would be no exceptions to the tariffs, Trump tweeted that they may come off for Canada and Mexico "if a new and fair NAFTA agreement". But as President Trump made clear, it will have to obey the Golden Rule of trade.
There's no indication from the American President that he'll stop at simply raising the metal bar.
In the days leading up to Thursday's announcement, the biggest trade move of Trump's presidency, key industry players and trading partners were still in the dark about the contours of the plan.
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.
Earlier on Thursday, without being prompted, Mr Trump praised Australia in a strong sign Australia would not be hit by the tariffs.
The US tariffs are set to go into effect in less than two weeks. "We kept making the case that Canada wasn't the enemy".
"There would be the opportunity for us to negotiate on matters of national security with other countries". US trade chief Robert Lighthizer will be in charge of working out deals with other partners.
Canadian cabinet members also kept phone lines "humming" with their USA counterparts in an all-out push that recalled a lobbying effort in April 2017 to persuade Trump not to withdraw from NAFTA but to pursue re-negotiations instead. But high-quality, European-made steel and aluminium pose no threat to the USA's national security.
The talks between the European Union (EU) and the United States on U.S. President Donald Trump's imposition of controversial tariff on steel and aluminum imports seem to have got into a standoff, as top EU trade official puts the blame on the U.S. side.
He said any special treatment afforded to Australia would only apply to shipments coming out of the country, and not to those from Australian companies in third markets.
The UK and EU steel industries and unions now need to speak with one voice.