Newspaper article The Canadian Press

White House Hints at Tariff Relief, Possibly Temporary, for Canada and Mexico

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

White House Hints at Tariff Relief, Possibly Temporary, for Canada and Mexico

Article excerpt

White House hints at possible tariff relief

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WASHINGTON - Canada will get at least some temporary relief allowing it to avoid the immediate impact of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial steel and aluminum tariffs, the White House suggested Wednesday.

After days of drama and a last-minute diplomatic scramble, the White House is now hinting that the impending tariff announcement might have some form of national-security exception for the U.S.'s neighbours.

"There are potential carve-outs for Canada and Mexico based on national security -- and possibly other countries as well, based on that process," spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said during her daily media briefing.

"That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis."

But the drama isn't over.

There are some indications from the White House that the tariff threat might continue to be held over Canada and Mexico as a negotiating weapon, in an effort to prod them into a new NAFTA deal.

The formal tariff announcement could come soon.

Hawkish White House trade adviser Peter Navarro suggested any exemption would come with a catch. He told Fox Business Channel that, Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET, surrounded by steel workers in the Oval Office, Trump would sign proclamations that impose tariffs that kick in within 15 to 30 days on most countries.

He suggested tariffs could still hit Canada and Mexico later: ''The proclamation will have a clause that does not impose these tariffs immediately on Canada and Mexico. It's gonna give us ... the opportunity to negotiate a great (NAFTA) deal for this country. And if we get that, all's good with Canada and Mexico.''

That was followed by a Washington Post report late Wednesday that said one version of the still-unfinalized plan would see Canada and Mexico granted a 30-day exemption -- to be renewed based on progress at the NAFTA bargaining table.

But the details are being hotly debated within the White House.

Both the substance and the timing of the announcement are in dispute: an initial version of the White House schedule for Thursday shows no tariff announcement like the one Navarro described.

Some want a hardline approach where the tariffs apply to every country; some want the opposite, meaning full relief for Canada and other allies. Then there's the third, middle-of-the-road approach others have suggested, and which Navarro appeared to hint at: offering short-term relief for Canada and Mexico, while continuing to use the tariff threat as NAFTA leverage.

The internal pressure from within Washington to go back to the drawing board was illustrated Wednesday in a letter from 107 congressional Republicans, who expressed deep concern about the president's plans.

The Canadian government isn't celebrating yet. It kept a low profile following the White House statement about a carve-out. …

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