Steel and Aluminum From Brazil, Argentina Hit With US Tariffs

Steel beams sit outside Arena de Sao Paulo in Brazil on Dec. 8, 2013. President Donald Trump accused Brazil and Argentina on Monday of hurting American farmers through currency manipulation and said he’ll slap tariffs on their steel and aluminum imports to retaliate. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — The United States will impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Brazil and Argentina, President Donald Trump announced Monday morning.

“Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies, which is not good for our farmers,” Trump tweeted. “Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries.”

Brazil and Argentina were among a handful of countries the Trump administration had granted a reprieve on a sweeping 25% tariff on steel imports. The two South American countries also enjoyed an exemption from a similar 10% tariff on aluminum exports.

Speaking to reporters outside the White House on Monday before leaving for a NATO summit in London, Trump accused Brazil and Argentina of slashing the value of their currencies by as much as 10%.

“I gave them a big break on tariffs but now I’m taking that break off because it’s very unfair to our manufacturers and very unfair to our farmers,” Trump said, according to a White House pool report. “Our steel companies will be very happy and our farmers will be very happy with what I did.”

But the Brazilian steel industry did not share those sentiments. In a statement responding to Trump’s announcement, the Brazil Steel Institute denied Monday that the country’s government was¿ deflating the value of the real and predicted the tariffs would backfire on Trump, hurting U.S. manufacturing.

As of June 2019, Brazil was the largest exporter of steel to the United States, accounting for 19% of all foreign steel coming into the country. Brazilian steel imports jumped by nearly 50% this year as compared to 2018 levels, according to figures from the Department of Commerce.

Most of the Brazilian exports to the United States came in the form of semi-finished steel, which requires additional work to form into finished products. The Brazil Steel Institute noted in its statement that U.S. mills rely on semi-finished products imported from other countries to operate.

Speaking on Fox Business on Monday morning, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross defended Trump’s decision to impose the tariffs, saying the countries should not get a pass simply because they are allies. 

“Even our friends must live by the rules, our best allies must also live by the rules,” Ross said. “I believe what the president was concerned about was the deterioration in the Brazilian currency and that’s a fair factor to take into account.”

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