Donald Trump “emphatically” promised to exempt Australian steel and aluminum from import tariffs during a meeting with Australia’s prime minister last year. The vow was witnessed by senior lawmakers on both sides, including U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC, reported. The promise was made in the “steel cage,” the president’s mobile secure-communications pod, on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, in July 2017. The Australian government has, therefore, been stunned by statements by U.S. officials that there will be no country-specific exemptions to the tariffs. The tariffs were announced in an impromptu fashion by Trump last week, when he said that he intends to impose a 25 percent tax on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum, on national-security grounds. Australia exports about $500 million of steel and aluminum to the U.S. a year. The U.K. has also been blindsided by the move; Prime Minister Theresa May raised her “deep concern” over the proposed new tariffs in a phone call with Trump on Sunday. The EU is said to be preparing retaliatory measures.
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