WASHINGTON — President Trump has granted Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea permanent exemptions to his administration's proposed elevated steel and aluminum import tariffs.
The administration also extended temporary tariff exemptions on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Mexico and the countries of the European Union (EU) until June 1, according to a presidential proclamation issued late on April 30.
The permanent exemptions on steel imports from Brazil and South Korea are welcome news for U.S. tire manufacturers, which are wholly dependent on imported steel wire rod as a source of steel tire cord.
Brazil accounts for 56 percent of the tire-grade steel imported into the U.S., while South Korea is the source of another 8 percent, according to the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association.
Although South Korea will not have to pay the 25-percent tariffs on steel or the 10-percent tariffs on aluminum, it still is being forced to pay antidumping duties of 41.1 percent, as levied by the U.S. Department of Commerce on March 26.
Even if the EU exemptions on the tariffs become permanent, EU members Spain and the United Kingdom — which between them account for 6 percent of tire-grade steel imports to the U.S. — are also still paying antidumping duties.
Commerce levied duties ranging from 11.08 to 32.04 percent on Spanish steel producers, and 147.63 percent on U.K. steel manufacturers.
In his April 30 proclamation, Mr. Trump said the U.S. has concluded discussions with South Korea on alternative means to prevent national security threats posed by Korean steel imports.
These include measures to reduce excess steel production capacity in Korea; to increase capacity utilization in steel mills in the U.S.; and a quota imposing limits on Korean steel exports to the U.S.
The U.S. also has agreed in principle on alternatives to tariffs with Brazil, Australia and Argentina, according to Mr. Trump.
"In my judgment…these discussions will be most productive if steel articles from Argentina, Australia and Brazil remain exempt from the tariff…until the details can be finalized and implemented by proclamation," he said.
"I have determined that, in light of the agreed-upon quota and other measures with South Korea, the measures being finalized with Argentina, Australia and Brazil, and the ongoing discussions that may result in further long-term exclusions from the tariff…it is necessary and appropriate, at this time, to maintain the current tariff as it applies to other countries," he said.
In an official statement, the European Commission (EC) blasted the Trump administration for delaying implementation of the tariffs.
"The U.S. decision prolongs market uncertainty, which is already affecting business decisions," the EC said. "The EU should be fully and permanently exempted from these measures, as they cannot be justified on the grounds of national security."