Stored rolls of steel are seen outside the ArcelorMittal Dofasco plant, an integrated steel producer, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Reuters/Peter Power

The US is considering exemptions for some countries, including Canada and Mexico, from expected tariffs on foreign-made metals, a White House spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump announced last week, to the surprise of some of his staff, his decision to impose tariffs of 25% on steel imports and 10% on imported aluminum. Details of the action are reportedly still being worked out, but White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Wednesday that Trump intended to sign an order on the tariffs this week.

Sanders added that the order “will be country by country and it will be based on national security.”

Some observers have noted that Canada and Mexico, the United States’ first and fourth largest suppliers of the metals, will be hurt far more than China, which Trump has identified as the America’s primary trade adversary.

Administration officials, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and trade adviser Peter Navarro, responded in television interviews last weekend that the tariffs were not intended to target China, but rather to revive America’s ailing metals manufacturing industries.

Mnuchin undeterred

In the face of widespread criticism of Trump’s tariff announcement last week, including warnings that retaliation will hurt the US economy, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he wasn’t worried.

“If you want to negotiate things that are good for us, you have to be prepared for the consequences,” Mnuchin told Bloomberg News on Wednesday. “Our objective is not to create a trade war. Our objective is to make sure US companies and workers are treated fairly.”

He added that he did not see the action impacting economic growth prospects. “We’re comfortable that we’re going to manage through this so that it is not detrimental to our growth projections,” the Treasury chief said.

Mnuchin said the tariffs would “definitely” be imposed soon, but he echoed other messages that exemptions may be included.

“We have a mechanism to carve out countries,” Mnuchin said in a Fox Business interview on Wednesday.