U.S. President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s prime minister, during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Oliver Contreras/Pool via Bloomberg)

Trump Signals Exemption for Australia on New Metals Tariff

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump said Friday that he was working on a security agreement with Australia that would exempt the country from planned tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

“Spoke to PM @TurnbullMalcolm of Australia. He is committed to having a very fair and reciprocal military and trade relationship,” Trump said on Twitter, referring to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. “Working very quickly on a security agreement so we don’t have to impose steel or aluminum tariffs on our ally, the great nation of Australia.”

Trump announced on Thursday that he’s slapping a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum. He excluded Mexico and Canada, as long as they negotiate a new North American Free Trade Agreement, and threw the door open to further exclusions for countries and niche products.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed that Australia would be excluded from the U.S. metal tariffs following an early Saturday morning discussion with Trump.

“I was very pleased the president was able to confirm that he would not have to impose tariffs on Australian steel and aluminum,” Turnbull said from Adelaide, South Australia on ABC News. “It was a very good and productive discussion with the president.”

Several countries have sought to gain exemptions from the tariffs, which are set to take effect later this month. Trump has said he would consider exemptions based on national security grounds and the economic relationship between various countries and the U.S.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the U.S. wants to negotiate exemptions for the tariffs before they take effect in two weeks, as pressure grows from allies who are threatening retaliation if the duties are applied to them.

“Ideally, some of them will be dealt with in this 15-day process so that they don’t hit those countries,” Mnuchin told reporters Friday, citing the legal time-frame for implementing the tariffs.

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