Mnuchin signals more changes to tariffs plan

Mnuchin signals more changes to tariffs plan
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Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinWhite House confirms new trade talks with China Hillicon Valley: Facebook weighs crackdown on anti-vaccine content | Lyft challenges Trump fuel standards rollback | Illinois tries to woo Amazon | New round of China trade talks next week On The Money: Trump declares emergency at border | Braces for legal fight | Move divides GOP | Trump signs border deal to avoid shutdown | Winners, losers from spending fight | US, China trade talks to resume next week MORE on Friday opened the door to exempting more countries and products from President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE's tariffs plan.

Mnuchin said that countries beyond Mexico and Canada could be added to the exemptions list before tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum go into effect within the next couple of weeks.

“My expectation is there may be some other countries [Trump] considers in the next two weeks,” Mnuchin said on CNBC.

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The Commerce Department also may look into removing certain products from the brunt of the hefty tariffs, he said.

When asked whether he is concerned the tariff policy could spark a global trade war that hurts the U.S. economy, Mnuchin insisted that "we have to defend U.S. interests."

"Tariffs are important to preserve the steel industry,” he said.

Congressional Republicans blasted Trump's tariffs plan and urged the president to further narrow what countries and products are captured under the proposal, which is set to go into effect in 14 days.

Lawmakers expressed concern that the tariffs could undermine the economic influence of the recently enacted tax-reform law. 

"The objective is free and fair trade so the president is very focused on creating better opportunities for U.S. companies, and that’s going to lead to more growth," Mnuchin said.

The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers in a recent report forecast 3 percent growth for this year and into the next decade. 

Mnuchin brushed off economic concerns about the tariffs, which are being imposed over national security concerns. 

“Obviously any time you do anything we have to analyze the risks,” he said.

“But if you want move forward with the agenda for American companies you have to be willing to take certain risks," he said.

Earlier this week Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, announced his resignation from the White House, with all signs that his much-speculated departure came over a rift about the tariffs.

Cohn had managed for the past year to offset the protectionist push inside the West Wing, but eventually he was unable to keep those forces at bay. 

"The president has a deep economic bench," Mnuchin said. 

Mnuchin pushed back at concern that Trump's tariff move could represent a repeat of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs implemented in 1930 by President Herbert Hoover, which some economists argue exacerbated the effects of the Great Depression. 

"I can assure that President Trump is going to be no Herbert Hoover. There is no risk," he said. 

The president determines which countries would fall under the global tariffs plan announced on Thursday.

The Commerce Department is charged with deciding what products will be covered by the steel and aluminum tariffs.