White House says tariffs decision on track for this week

White House says tariffs decision on track for this week

The White House said Wednesday that a plan to slap tariffs on imported steel and aluminum is still on track to be released this week.  

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE intends to stick with the plan to make an announcement on sweeping tariffs that will hit global steel and aluminum imports.

"Yes, we are still on pace for an announcement on that at the end of this week,” Sanders told reporters.

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Trump has vowed to impose sweeping tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum imports, a plan that has brought a backlash from congressional Republicans and key U.S. allies, who are concerned about the political and economic fallout.

The Commerce Department recently said in two reports that it determined that the imports of those metals is a threat to U.S. national security.

Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom are among the nations that have balked at the tariffs and said they would retaliate against U.S. exporters to protect their industries.

On Monday, Trump linked the completion of talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to whether Canada or Mexico would get an exemption from the tariffs, raising tensions among the long-time trading partners.

Amid the tariff battle, Trump’s top economic adviser Gary Cohn resigned from his White House post on Tuesday, partly because he couldn't steer the president away from the tariffs decision.

Republicans on Capitol Hill are urging the president to scale back the plan and instead specifically target the problematic areas of steel and aluminum trade that domestic industries argue are hurting their production and causing job losses.

China's overcapacity has been the primary focus for lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have called for more action. 

With an announcement on tariffs likely imminent, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue on Wednesday said his members are “very concerned about the increasing prospects of a trade war, which would put at risk the economic momentum achieved through the administration’s tax and regulatory reforms.”

Donohue said the tariffs would harm U.S. manufacturers, provoke widespread retaliation from the nation's trading partners "and leave virtually untouched the true problem of Chinese steel and aluminum overcapacity."

He called on Trump to refrain from imposing the global tariffs on steel and aluminum. 

"Alienating our strongest global allies amid high-stakes trade negotiations is not the path to long-term American leadership," he said. 

The president has recently rattled off several contested trade figures to make his case that the United States needs to take protectionist actions to lower the trade gap, including quoting a much higher trade deficit than what actually occurred last year. In 2017, the trade deficit hit $566 billon, well below Trump's number of $800 billion.

Trump fired off a series of tweets about trade on Wednesday morning that called for China to implement a plan to lower their trade surplus with the United States.

He also hinted that an administration investigation into intellectual property protections in China may be drawing to a close and will be decided in favor of the United States.

In January, the trade deficit with China, a primary target of Trump's trade policies, increased to $36 billion, the highest level since September 2015, the Commerce Department reported on Wednesday. 

The total trade deficit in January was $56.6 billion, the largest gap since October 2008, which was at the end of George W. Bush's presidency and before the full brunt of the financial crisis hit the economy.

Trump has said he would easily erase the trade deficits, which he argues are holding back economic and jobs growth.