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U.S. says no decision on Brazil, Argentina metal tariffs

Christian Fernsby |
A senior White House official said on Tuesday that the Trump administration hasn't made a decision about reimposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina.

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The White House is considering action, but "no decisions have been made," Lawrence Kudlow, the director of the White House National Economic Council, said at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council meeting.

Kudlow's remarks came after U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted last week that the United States would "restore" the tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina "effective immediately."

"Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies, which is not good for our farmers," Trump tweeted on Dec. 2.

"Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries," he said.

However, the White House hasn't released any documents that would formalize the tariff actions since Trump's announcement on Twitter.

Amid strong opposition, Trump slapped tariffs on imported steel and aluminum globally last year citing national security concerns, defined under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. Brazil and Argentina reached deals with the U.S. administration to put quotas in place in exchange for exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs.

Chad Bown, senior fellow and trade expert at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told Xinhua that it's still unclear from an economic perspective why Trump plans to restore metal tariffs on Brazil and Argentina .

"They were already being limited in terms of how much steel and aluminum they could sell in the U.S. market. So converting that (quotas) to a tariff isn't a huge economic change from the American perspective," Bown said, adding that the president's unusual move makes it more difficult for other countries to negotiate with the United States "because it looks like no deal is ever final."

Jennifer Hillman, senior fellow for trade and international political economy at the Council on Foreign Relations, believes that Trump's conversion of Section 232 quotas on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina is "illegal."

"No, Trump cannot legally convert quotas to tariffs under Section 232," Hillman tweeted last week.

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