Australian media is accusing President Donald Trump of “reneging” on a promise he reportedly made to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull last year.
Trump “emphatically” promised Turnbull that Australian steel and aluminum would be exempt from any steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the U.S., the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The agreement, which was reportedly witnessed by several U.S. and Australian officials, occurred during the G20 meeting in Germany last July.
Turnbull’s government reacted with shock last week when Trump announced that the U.S. would be imposing stiff tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. In the immediate aftermath, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told local media that he was “seeking urgent clarification” from U.S. officials to see if Australia would be exempt.
“I’m not going to provide a commentary on the Trump administration’s trustworthiness,” Ciobo said on Saturday when it became clear that Australia would likely not be spared.
Any exemptions would ultimately be a decision for Trump, Ciobo said. However, White House officials have made clear that country-specific exemptions were unlikely.
Although the U.S. is not a major market for Australian steel and aluminum exporters, Australian officials expressed concerns that the tariffs would trigger retaliatory measures that could deeply impact global trade.
“My concern remains that off the back of actions like this, we could see retaliatory measures put in place by other major economies. That’s in no-one’s interests,” Ciobo said.
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