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Trump delays tariffs (and potential trade war) against US allies

Steel and aluminum tariffs were set to go into effect at midnight, but the president extended the deadline to June 1.

President Trump And German Chancellor Angela Merkel Hold Joint News Conference In East Room Of White House Alex Wong/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump will take another 30 days to decide whether to impose steel and aluminum tariffs on US allies. He pushed back the deadline to June 1 to allow more time for negotiations with the European Union, Mexico, and Canada, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A 10 percent aluminum tariff and 25 percent steel tariff had been set to go into effect May 1 at midnight.

The announcement offers some relief from a looming trade war with America’s closest allies. Trump had already suggested that Mexico and Canada would be temporarily exempt from tariffs set to go into effect on March 23, as the three countries work through NAFTA renegotiations. Then, as that tariff deadline loomed in March, the Trump administration extended the implementation deadline to May 1 not just for Canada and Mexico but for all the European Union countries, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, and South Korea, to facilitate possible negotiations.

Now the Trump administration has pushed back that deadline once again, to June 1 for Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. The New York Times reports that Australia, Argentina, and Brazil have reached “initial agreements” with the administration that will let them at least temporarily avoid tariffs. As for South Korea, the Wall Street Journal reports that the administration has finalized a deal that will allow it to avoid tariffs altogether.

The extra 30 days suggests that Trump, with the help of his advisers, may be reconsidering his stance that “trade wars are good, and easy to win.”

According to the Washington Post, Trump has been pushing allies to agree to quotas on exports to the US, though the details of any deals haven’t been made public yet. At the very least, the latest tariff extension indicates the Trump administration is attempting to win concessions from allies but also avoid retaliation — but it’s unclear whether this waffling will help or hurt its attempts at dealmaking.

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