Mnuchin: Tariffs Won't Apply to Mexico, Canada if Nafta Is Reworked--Update

03/06/18 01:09 PM EST
By Kate Davidson 

WASHINGTON -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told lawmakers Tuesday new tariffs on steel and aluminum wouldn't apply to Canada and Mexico if the U.S. is able to successfully renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"To the extent that we're successful in renegotiating Nafta, those tariffs won't apply to Mexico and Canada," Mr. Mnuchin said in response to questions at a House hearing Tuesday, echoing remarks President Donald Trump made on Twitter on Monday.

Mr. Mnuchin said the administration is trying to balance protecting the U.S. steel and aluminum industries "with making sure we don't do undue harm to the economy." He also acknowledged Canada is a significant U.S. steel trading partner.

"We are not looking to get into trade wars," he said. "We are looking to make sure U.S. companies can compete fairly around the world."

Overseas officials have pushed back against the plan announced last week to impose 25% tariffs on imported steel and 10% duties on aluminum imports. U.S. executives and Republican lawmakers have also warned the move could undermine U.S. economic growth and offset the potential benefits of the newly enacted tax overhaul.

The administration is expected to release details of the plan this week or possibly next.

Mr. Mnuchin also said he had conversations with his international counterparts about fears of a trade war, but did not identify those counterparts by name. "We're trying to deal with this on a case-by-case basis," he said.

GOP lawmakers praised Mr. Mnuchin at Tuesday's hearing for the recent enactment of a $1.5 trillion tax cut, but grilled him on the administration's tariff plans. One Kansas Republican, concerned about the potential effect on the agriculture industry, questioned how much Mr. Mnuchin actually knew about the details of the proposed tariffs.

"I know a lot about the proposed tariffs," Mr. Mnuchin said. "I can tell you the president loves farmers and the agricultural community."

Asked if he supported the tariff proposal, Mr. Mnuchin said, "I am supportive of the mechanism as the president has announced and I look forward to him announcing the specific details."

Mr. Mnuchin said he is "cautiously optimistic" the administration and its trading partners will be able to negotiate a new Nafta agreement. Meanwhile, he said, officials will try to balance the risks to U.S. steel and aluminum producers and the U.S. firms that rely on those products. "I think we have a way of managing through this," he said.

The tariff announcement has sparked a rift between the White House and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said Monday: "We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan." Mr. Trump on Monday afternoon insisted that "we're not backing down."

Write to Kate Davidson at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 06, 2018 13:09 ET (18:09 GMT)

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