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President Trump weighing exempting some countries from tariffs

Potential exemptions from a set of steel and aluminum tariffs could include Canada and Mexico.

President Donald Trump on March 6, 2018.

President Donald Trump on March 6, 2018. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering exempting certain countries from a set of tariffs on imported steel and aluminum that he is expected to authorize by the end of the week, said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Wednesday.

“We expect the president will sign something by the end of the week,” Sanders said during the daily White House press briefing. “There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada, based on national security. And possibly other countries as well, based on that process.”

Sanders would not indicate if the carve-outs would apply to other U.S. allies such as the European Union, which has spoken out forcefully against the tariffs and which has threatened to impose tariffs on American products in retaliation.

The carve-outs will be decided on a “case-by-case and country-by-country basis,” Sanders told reporters.

Trump has proposed imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum — a move that aims to deliver on his campaign promise to deliver trade deals that are more favorable to the United States, but one that has put him at odds with foreign trade allies and top-ranking Republican lawmakers who have urged him to drop the plan.

National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn resigned from his post on Tuesday after pressing the president to walk away from the tariffs plan. Cohn is expected to remain in his post until the end of the month, according to White House officials, but news of his departure spurred an immediate decline in U.S. stocks on Wednesday.

Asked about Cohn’s replacement, Sanders said Trump “has a number of people under consideration,” but would “take his time making that decision.”

“What I can assure you obviously is he’s going to make a good pick that can help him continue to further building a strong economy and continue creating jobs and continue focusing on long-term economic success,” Sanders said.

Sanders dismissed concerns expressed by some Republican lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who have questioned whom will Trump “turn to” for advice in Cohn’s absence.

“The president has got a number of very accomplished, smart, capable people around him, and he is going to continue to lean on a lot of those people,” Sanders said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the president’s tariff proposal during an appearance on Fox Business Network, telling reporter Maria Bartiromo the president was “just looking for free and fair reciprocal trade.”

“The president understands the economy. He understands business,” Mnuchin said. “He is looking out for American companies and American workers with trade deals that are just not fair.”

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in an interview with CNBC, said despite the global outcry over the proposed tariffs, the Trump administration was “not trying to blow up the world.”

“We’re not looking for a trade war. We’re going to have very sensible relations with our allies,” Ross said. “We hope and we believe that at the end of the day, there will be a process of working with the other countries that are our friends.”

Asked about Cohn’s departure — which comes amid a string of other high-profile resignations in the past few months, including Communications Director Hope Hicks and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell — Ross downplayed Cohn’s exit, saying he “has been contemplating some sort of a move for some little while.”

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