President Donald Trump said he would impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, with temporary exemptions for Canada and Mexico that will expire if the North American Free Trade Agreement isn't renegotiated.
U.S trading partners including Australia and "other countries" might also be exempted, potentially reducing retaliatory moves by some of the U.S.'s biggest trading partners.
The order, scheduled to go into effect in 15 days, could hit South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Turkey, and Brazil. Foreign leaders including Canada's Justin Trudeau, Germany's Angela Merkel, Britain's Theresa May and France's Emmanuel Macron have suggested that the tariffs could pose dangers for the world economy.
U.S. companies and consumers may now have to confront possible trade retaliation from export markets that are important to various U.S. constituencies. Among the potential targets are U.S. orange juice, cranberries, chewing tobacco and bed linen, as well as Harley-Davidson (HOG) - Get Harley-Davidson, Inc. Report motorcycles, Jim Beam bourbon whiskey and Levi's blue jeans.
Florida, which Trump narrowly carried in the 2016 election, is a major orange juice producer. House Speaker Paul Ryan comes from Wisconsin, home of Harley- Davidson and also the largest cranberry producer among U.S. states. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell comes from Kentucky, home to Jim Beam as well as a major tobacco producer.
"We're going to be very fair, we're going to be very flexible, but we're going to protect the American worker as I said I would do in my campaign," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting.
The president said he would impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum but would "have a right to go up or down depending on the country and I'll have a right to drop out countries or add countries. I just want fairness."
Canada and Mexico's treatment would be connected to the ongoing NAFTA talks, which are expected to resume in early April.
Steel and aluminum workers came to the White House for the afternoon announcement with Trump.
Earlier, Ryan said at a session with Home Depot employees in Atlanta, "I'm just not a fan of broad-based, across-the-board tariffs." He pointed to the store's many products that rely on steel and aluminum.
More than 100 House Republicans wrote Trump on Wednesday, asking him to reconsider "the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences" to the U.S. economy and workers.