What's happening with Donald Trump's tariffs? According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the United States is now at risk of finding itself "in a position where it is unable to be certain it could meet demands for national defense and critical industries in a national emergency".
The EU is looking to be exempted, too, but has said it will retaliate if the USA slaps tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.
Trump has made strong hints that Australia will be given special consideration, given the special ties between the two countries, but no firm answer. "Because it is so subjective, every country with a politically sensitive industry will say, 'it's our national economic security, ' which should mean we should be able to protect our dairy industry or our lumber industry or fill in the blank with your favorite, local politically sensitive industry". That doesn't start a trade war it starts what we call a trade spat or a trade disagreement between the United States and whichever countries are on that particular list. Great country, long-term partner.
It also allows the USA to sidestep numerous niceties of World Trade Organisation rulings on such things. Along with the US, the two nations make up the North American Free Trade Agreement, which is largely aimed at stemming such punitive tariffs.
What happens if the talks fail?
"Labor productivity has seen a five-fold increase since the early 1980s, going from an average of 10.1 man-hours per finished ton to an average of 1.9 man-hours per finished ton of steel in 2014", a 2015 report from the group said.
Trump said the U.S. needs to increase domestic steel production from its present 73% of capacity to approximately an 80% operating rate, which is the minimum rate needed for the long-term viability of the industry.
The officials said all European Union countries, including Britain which is leaving the European Union, were behind the Commission, which handles trade issues for the 28 governments. Barely 2% of the steel imported into the U.S. past year came from China, according to data from S&P Global Platts.
While Chinese steel exports to the United States have been suppressed by previous anti-dumping duties, the broad "Section 232" national security tariffs are widely seen as aiming to pressure Beijing to cut excess steel and aluminum production capacity that has driven down global prices. It is impossible to predict how the WTO will rule on that point. In the National Security Strategy, the USA relationship with the European Union is cited only once in the context of "ensuring fair and reciprocal trade practices", and "eliminating barriers to growth".
For example, a report this week by The Trade Partnership consulting firm in Washington, D.C., said that while steel and aluminum employment would increase by 33,464 jobs, tariffs would "cost 179,334 jobs throughout the rest of the economy, for a net loss of almost 146,000 jobs".
Retaliation from China would likely target agricultural exports, which could hit Australian farmers.
"If national security defined to include economic security becomes an accepted reason for imposing tariffs, then we have kind of blown the lid of the agreement we have under the WTO".
When it comes to numbers, US President Donald Trump worries little about precision. For example, he said the typical American vehicle payment may go up by $4 per month.
"We hope that we can get confirmation that the EU is excluded from this", EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem told policy makers, experts and reporters at a German Marshall Fund event in Brussels.