ArcelorMittal's steel plant in Ghent, Belgium. Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman
ArcelorMittal's steel plant in Ghent, Belgium. Photo: Reuters/Yves Herman

After postponing the imposition of steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports on key allies, the Trump administration announced on Thursday that, with a few exceptions, time was up for negotiations.

“I have determined that,” a statement from US President Donald Trump posted to the White House read, “… it is necessary and appropriate, at this time, to maintain the current tariff level as it applies to other countries.”

“Other countries,” according to the announcement, is in reference to those nations that were granted temporary exemption but did not negotiate settlements under threat of the tariffs. Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea all came to the negotiating table, while European Union officials said they would not negotiate trade issues “at gunpoint.” Permanent exemption for Canada and Mexico, meanwhile, was said to hinge on a resolution to a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has yet to materialize.

In response to the announcement, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker lamented that today is a bad day for world trade, adding that it is “totally unacceptable that they impose unilateral tariffs on trade – countermeasures will follow.”

Mexico came out swinging after the announcement, immediately announcing that it would meet the metals tariffs with duties of its own on US imports including pork bellies, fruit, cheeses and flat steel.

The Trump administration’s move comes ahead of US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ planned visit to Beijing on Saturday, during which the US and China will try to hammer out a deal to forestall the imposition of proposed tariffs on US$50 billion in Chinese imports. The White House this week announced the tariffs on Chinese goods were back on the table, after suggesting earlier that they would be postponed, pending negotiations.