WASHINGTON—President Trump's order levying steep tariffs against most imported steel and aluminum has elicited starkly different responses from various sectors.
Trump signed the order in the late afternoon of March 8, surrounded by workers from the steel and aluminum industries. The order establishes a 25 percent tariff on all steel imported into the U.S., and a 10 percent tariff on all imported aluminum.
"We want a lot of steel coming into this country, but we want it to be fair, and we want to protect our workers," Trump said in a speech at the signing ceremony.
He said he would temporarily exempt Canada and Mexico from the tariffs, and monitor the effect these exemptions will have on national security.
The steel industry and the United Steelworkers union are enthusiastic about the tariffs, while organizations such as the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association and the Association of International Automobile Dealers Association have condemned the tariffs as harmful to both manufacturers and consumers dependent on products made from steel and aluminum.
"We strongly urge you to consider the unintended and substantial negative consequences that trade restrictions on steel imports will have for downstream U.S. manufacturers," the USTMA and its 10 tire manufacturer members told President Trump in a March 7 letter.
But Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, praised the president's actions in a statement released during the signing ceremony.
"We hope the era of American trade surrender is coming to an end," Paul said. "I thank President Trump for starting that process.
"Steel and aluminum workers are already being hired back, and as the result of stronger industries, we believe these will be the first of many new jobs created in America's manufacturing communities," he said.
Republican members of Congress also expressed opposition to the tariffs. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., met with Trump, trying to dissuade him from an action that might cause a backlash in an election year.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, also met with Trump after his March 1 announcement. Brady reportedly asked him to take a narrower approach to tariffs, targeting countries such as China rather than Canada and the European Union.
"I applaud the president for targeting unfairly traded steel and aluminum," Brady was quoted as saying on the Ways and Means website. "But unlike the tariffs that also sweep up fairly traded steel and aluminum, especially with trading partners like Canada and Mexico, they should be excluded from this tariff."
Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and chief economic adviser to the president, announced his resignation March 6 because of his sharp disagreement with Trump over tariffs.
Trump announced the tariffs under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which allows the president to impose trade restrictions on any import that may threaten national security.
On the morning of March 8, the president said he would be "very flexible" regarding possible exemptions for some steel-importing countries. He also said March 5 that he might consider ending the tariffs if the North American Free Trade Agreement is renegotiated in a way he finds favorable to the U.S.
"We're going to build our steel industry back and we're going to build our aluminum industry back," Trump said during a March 1 "listening session" with representatives of the U.S. steel and aluminum industry, the minutes of which were posted on the White House website.