WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump reportedly has agreed to lift tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada and Mexico, relenting to congressional pressure to back off in order to boost the chances of winning approval for his newly negotiated North American trade pact.
For months, Trump had resisted advice from lawmakers and administration officials to remove the 25% duties that he slapped on Canada, Mexico and other countries about a year ago. Trump wanted to keep protecting domestic steelmakers and help factory workers who are among his strongest supporters, and he saw the tariffs as leverage for getting better deals from trading partners.
The decision to remove the tariffs was first reported by CNBC and The Washington Post.
The tariffs have boosted steel production and investments in the United States but also have hurt a much wider array of domestic companies that have struggled with higher metal prices and supply problems.
As a tactic in trade talks, administration officials and supporters say the tariffs have worked, at least in bringing parties to the table and, in Canada's and Mexico's case, in agreeing to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, one of Trump's key campaign promises. Last fall, the three countries reached a deal on the newly named U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Critics said Canada and Mexico were willing to negotiate changes to the NAFTA agreement and that the tariffs were not needed.
Canada is the United States' largest steel and aluminum trading partner, and Ottawa retaliated with tariffs on U.S. steel products and other goods.
Trump's steel tariffs were controversial from the start as he imposed them across the world, claiming that foreign imports of steel and aluminum threatened U.S. national security. Canada and other allies regarded them as particularly repugnant given their long, close relations and security alliances with the United States.
In the U.S., lawmakers in both parties criticized the tariffs as well, worried that they would hurt international relations and alienate partners at a time when Trump was undertaking a major trade struggle with China.
The new U.S. trade agreement with Canada and Mexico -- which analysts and outside experts say include some significant but overall modest changes -- needs to be ratified by Congress before it can take effect. Some senior Republican lawmakers insisted that they would not even take up the trade deal until the metal tariffs on Canada and Mexico were lifted.
Congressional Democrats, for their part, have said they would not support the agreement unless changes were made on labor enforcement and the duration of drug exclusivity rights.
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