Trump Downplays Chance of Tariffs on Australia After NYT Report

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump downplayed the chance he would impose tariffs on Australia, a top U.S. ally, after the New York Times reported his administration considered doing so last week.

Asked about the report on Sunday before a visit to the U.K., Trump said the U.S. had very strong ties with Australia, without directly mentioning tariffs.

“The Australian situation is interesting but the relationship is very strong,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “No, we’re doing a very special relationship with Australia.”

Some of Trump’s top trade advisers had urged tariffs on Australia to stem a surge of aluminum from the country over the past year, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the discussions. The administration at least temporarily decided not to take action after objections from officials at the Defense and State Departments, the report said.

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison didn’t say whether he was aware of the newspaper’s story, when asked about it by reporters at a media briefing in the Solomon Islands.

“We have an arrangement with the U.S. and we are working within that arrangement and working closely with the U.S. officials and the White House on all those issues,” said Morrison.

As a close security ally of the U.S. and the most China-dependent economy in the developed world, Australia’s $1.3 trillion economy already had a lot to lose as the world’s two biggest trading nations lock horns. China buys 35% of Australian exports, equivalent to about 8% of gross domestic product, and dominates iron ore shipments and education.

The prospect of the U.S. targeting Australian trade has received little analysis. The two fought together in every major war in the 20th century and the U.S. is a major investor in Australia, although their trade relationship isn’t particularly significant.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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