The United States has agreed to lift its tariffs on industrial metals from Mexico and Canada, clearing a major obstacle to congressional passage of President Trump’s new North American trade deal, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The bargain calls for Mexico and Canada to adopt tough new monitoring and enforcement measures to prevent Chinese steel from being shipped to the U.S. via their territory. U.S. tariffs are to be lifted in 48 hours.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with President Donald Trump on Friday, their third such call in about a week. They discussed the tariff issue, as well as relations with China and the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, according to a Canadian read-out of the call.
Citing national security considerations, Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum in March 2018 in response to what the U.S. called a flood of excess Chinese commodities onto global markets. The administration blamed Chinese overproduction for depressing global steel and aluminum prices, driving many U.S. mills out of business.
In talks over eliminating the tariffs, U.S. officials at first tried to get their North American partners to accept quotas on their steel and aluminum shipments. But both Canada and Mexico, neighbors and close U.S. allies, had bristled at being labeled national security dangers and rejected that demand.
By avoiding quotas, the deal announced Friday marks a win for the two countries while also addressing Trump’s worries about Chinese steel and eliminating a major stumbling block to Congress approving the replacement to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the president’s signature trade deal.
Senate Republicans, including Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the powerful Finance Committee head, had said they would not approve the North American trade deal while the tariffs were in place.
Iowa farmers were among the casualties of Mexican retaliatory tariffs, which cut deeply into U.S. agricultural exports.
Announcement of the tariffs deal came hours after the president gave the European Union and Japan six months to agree to limit their auto shipments to the United States or face the threat of U.S. tariffs.
Trump’s decision followed a Commerce Department report that concluded rising imports of foreign autos and auto parts threatened U.S. automotive research and development capabilities and thus impaired national security.
“American-owned automotive R & D and manufacturing are vital to national security,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross found.
The president threatened last year to hit foreign cars and parts with a 25 percent tariff but agreed to defer a decision while negotiations with U.S. trading partners proceed. Those talks have made little headway,
Friday’s auto tariffs announcement sets the clock running on another key trade issue at a time when Robert E. Lighthizer, the chief U.S. trade negotiator, is engaged in trying to reset trade relations with China and secure congressional approval of a new North American trade deal.
“If agreements are not reached within 180 days, the president will determine whether and what further action needs to be taken,” a White House statement said.
The decision signals the president’s support for a system of managed trade, with the federal government setting limits on the amount of foreign products that American businesses and consumers may buy rather than allowing market forces to operate unfettered.
The approach harks back to the voluntary export restraints the U.S. negotiated with Japan during an earlier period of trade tension in the 1980s.
“I don’t think there is any more doubt about it, the president is far more attracted to managing imports than expanding exports,” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. “The entire U.S. auto and auto parts sector understands why it needs a global strategy, but the President clearly prefers 1980s style protectionism.”
Unlike his confrontation with China, Trump is virtually alone in favoring tariffs on all imported cars. The Automotive Policy Council, representing the Big Three American automakers, said Friday that tariffs “would weaken global competitiveness and invite retaliation from our trading partners, which could harm jobs and investment in the U.S.”
John Bozzella, president of Global Automakers, representing foreign carmakers operating in the U.S., added: “No automaker or auto parts supplier asked for this ‘protection.’ We are headed down a dangerous and destructive course.”
The industry’s major union, the United Auto Workers, has supported “targeted” tariffs. But with members in Canada, the union does not back the president’s global approach, which would interfere with border-crossing North American supply chains.
The administration argues that U.S. automakers’ declining share of the domestic market coupled with foreign trade barriers is eroding U.S. innovation.
The U.S. imported passenger vehicles worth $191.7 billion last year, up 15 percent from 2014, according to the International Trade Administration.
Foreign companies supplied theU. S. with an additional $158.8 million of parts, up 9.4 percent over the same period.
The president last year rejected the EU’s offer to drop its auto tariffs to zero if the U.S. would do likewise. The U.S. maintains a 2.5 percent tariff on foreign cars, lower than the EU’s 10 percent levy.
But the U.S. imposes a 25 percent tax on imported light trucks, the most profitable market segment for American companies.
Trump May Pardon Military Men Accused Or Convicted Of War Crimes
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump has asked for files to be prepared on pardoning several U.S. military members accused of or convicted of war crimes, including one slated to stand trial on charges of shooting unarmed civilians while in Iraq, the New York Times reported on Saturday.
Trump requested the immediate preparation of paperwork needed, indicating he is considering pardons for the men around Memorial Day on May 27, the report said, citing two unnamed U.S. officials. Assembling pardon files normally takes months, but the Justice Department has pressed for the work to be completed before that holiday weekend, one of the officials said.
One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, scheduled to stand trial in coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.
Also believed to be included is the case of Major Mathew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010, the Times said.
Reuters could not immediately identify a way to contact Gallagher and Golsteyn.
The newspaper reported that the cases of other men are believed to be included in the paperwork, without naming them.
The Department of Justice declined to comment on the report, while the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legal experts cited in the report said that pardoning several accused and convicted war criminals, including some who have not yet gone to trial, has not been done in recent history, and some worried such pardons could erode the legitimacy of military law.
Trump Administration Considers Flying Migrants Across Country to Relieve Border Crowding
The Trump administration may begin flying asylum-seeking families at the southern U.S. border across the country to have their initial claims processed, a Customs and Border Protection official said Friday.
For months, immigration authorities have been shuttling newly arrested migrants—mostly families and children from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador—between border stations as facilities have become overwhelmed. Migrants have routinely been bussed hundreds of miles from the border in Southern California or El Paso, Texas, to as far away as Tucson, Ariz., before authorities process and then release them to aid groups.
Now, plans are being laid for the air transportation of parents and children out of overcrowded stations to other locations in the U.S., including northern and coastal states with Border Patrol offices that have capacity, if the flow of families doesn’t diminish, the CBP official said.
“This is an emergency. The entire system is overwhelmed,” the official said. “We are just trying to safely get them out of our facilities as quickly as possible.”
Border Patrol officials have flown nearly 1,000 migrants from overcrowded processing centers and stations in the Rio Grande Valley to nearby Del Rio, Texas, and San Diego since last Friday, another U.S. official said Friday.
The private, contracted flights have cost between $21,000 and $65,000 each and can carry a maximum of 135 people, that official said.
Mark Bogen, the mayor of Broward County in South Florida said Friday that he was told by local law-enforcement to expect as many as 135 migrants to be flown to the area and released by the Border Patrol after their asylum claims are processed.
Mr. Bogen said Broward County doesn’t have the resources to manage such an influx and that its shelters are already crowded with homeless local residents.
“We don’t know if these are seniors or kids,” he said of the potential migrant arrivals. “We were provided one thing: the number 135.”
The CBP official said no migrants were currently being flown to Florida. “We are in preliminary planning stages,” the official said.
The Trump administration contends that the record number of adults with children presenting themselves for asylum has brought the border infrastructure to a breaking point. CBP said on Friday that the agency had averaged 4,500 apprehensions per day over the preceding week. Some 248,000 migrants travelling as families illegally entered the U.S. between October, the start of the federal fiscal year, and April—more than in any prior full year.
Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, have blamed President Trump for exacerbating the flood of families to the southern border by cutting aid to Central America and threatening to close the border altogether.
The White House is seeking $4.5 billion in emergency border funding from Congress along with changes to asylum laws that the Trump administration says would make it easier to detain families longer, process applications more quickly, and deter more people from making the journey to the U.S.
Democratic lawmakers have refused to fund asylum policies they consider inhumane, but indicated late Thursday that they would consider funding some of the administration’s requests, making a counteroffer that excludes funding for detention beds, a Congressional aide said.
(Reporting by Wall Street Journal)
Trump Administration Rejects Subpoena For Tax Returns
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration is missing another deadline to produce President Donald Trump’s tax returns. A top House Democrat says he expects to take the administration to court as early as next week over the matter.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (mih-NOO’-shin) says in a letter Friday that he will not comply with the subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee for six years of Trump’s tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”
Mnuchin’s rejection of the subpoena had been expected. Earlier Friday, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal had said, “We will likely proceed to court as quickly as next week.”
Democrats are seeking Trump’s tax returns under a 1924 law that directs the IRS to furnish such information to the chairs of Congress’ tax-writing committees.
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