Australia won’t be subjected to US tariffs on steel and aluminium imports after President Donald Trump announced he’d struck a deal with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
On Friday Trump imposed import tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminium, sparking fears of a global trade war.
Australia joins Canada and Mexico on the exemption list.
The President announced his decision on Australia via Twitter yesterday, saying he was “working very quickly on a security agreement so we don’t have to impose steel or aluminium tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia”.
Spoke to PM @TurnbullMalcolm of Australia. He is committed to having a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship. Working very quickly on a security agreement so we don’t have to impose steel or aluminum tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2018
The Prime Minister confirmed the deal, but denied it was part of a broader defence arrangement.
“The reference to, the security agreement in his tweet is short-hand for the legal paperwork that has to follow through a proclamation in accordance with the executive order,” Turnbull said.
“We have the closest possible military and security alliance with the United States and it gets closer all of the time.”
The Prime Minister said he’d been talking with Trump about trade and Australian steel and aluminium exports, for some time.
Senior government officials and ministers, including US ambassador Joe Hockey, have been part of an intensive lobbying campaign since Trump announced his tariff plan, but until yesterday’s announcement, it was unclear whether Australia would be spared.
“Our trade relationship – as the President acknowledges – is a fair and reciprocal one. It’s an absolutely, it’s a level playing field. In fact, the US has a large trade surplus with Australia,” Turnbull said.
This morning on ABC TV’s Insiders, Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the world faced “choppy waters” over trade and hinted that Australia may support World Trade Organisation action by other nations against the US tariff plan, saying Australia would “practise what we preach on free trade”.
The Minister said “we need to assess it on a case-by-case basis” adding that President Trump had been “forthright in his views” and he would not criticise his protectionist plan.
“I’m not going to lecture anyone about what they should do,” he said.