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The exemptions are over: Steel and aluminum tariffs to apply to EU, Mexico, Canada

Steel coils produced at the NLMK Indiana steel mill are prepared for shipping on March 15 in Portage, Indiana. The White House has announced that it will stop giving exemptions to steel and aluminum tariffs for the European Union, Mexico, and Canada. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The White House announced on Thursday that it would be ending the temporary exemptions to the steel and aluminum tariffs for the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. The tariffs will officially take effect for these markets at 12.01 a.m. on Friday.

The three close U.S. allies had been part of a small group of foreign governments that received temporary exemptions from the tariffs, until trade deals could be signed.

The U.S. is still renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that these tariffs were important for national security.

“Without a strong economy, you can’t have a strong national security,’ he said.

Wait...what tariffs?

On March 1, President Donald Trump announced that the United States would impose a 25 percent global tariff on all imports of steel, and a 10 percent tariff on all aluminum imports. After this announcement, more than 100 Republican members of Congress signed a letter criticizing the decision.

What countries will still be exempt?

South Korea, Argentina, Australia, and Brazil have all signed separate trade deals with the United States, and will be exempt from all or part of the tariffs.

What are critics saying?

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has been a critic of the tariffs since they were first announced, arguing that the very concept goes against conservative principles. On Thursday, he released a statement:

This is dumb. Europe, Canada, and Mexico are not China, and you don't treat allies the same way you treat opponents. We've been down this road before — blanket protectionism is a big part of why America had a Great Depression. 'Make America Great Again' shouldn't mean 'Make America 1929 Again.'

What's next?

Back when the tariffs were first announced, the EU promised to counter with tariffs of its own. Now it looks like these might go into effect. Products hit by this could include American-made blue jeans, bourbon, and motorcycles.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, the part of the EU responsible for international treaties (among other things), put out a statement that read in part:

It’s a bad day for world trade. US leaves us no choice but to proceed with a WTO dispute settlement case and the imposition of additional duties on a number of US imports.

The European Commission tweeted that the tariffs represented “protectionism, pure and simple.”

Mexico has also responded, promising to slap tariffs on U.S. products including pork bellies, grapes, apples, and flat steel.

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