What do the Trump tariffs mean for SA?

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The decision-making process regarding the tariffs has evolved and more changes could be made before President Donald Trump formally approves them.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Wednesday that President Donald Trump will visit California next week, a journey that is expected to include a San Diego-area stop so he can view border wall prototypes. Steve Mnuchin said yesterday that Canada and Mexico might be granted exemptions from the steel and aluminum tariffs - but only if they bow to USA demands in renegotiating NAFTA.

The EU intends to hit a range of US goods with punitive tariffs in retaliation for Trump's pledges to impose a 25 percent duty on foreign steel and a 10 percent levy on imported aluminum.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the 28-nation European Union, detailed retaliatory tariffs it plans to impose on prominent USA products if Trump carries out his plan to impose the metal tariffs, taxing Harley-Davidson motorcycles, bourbon, blue jeans, cranberries, orange juice and peanut butter.

Stocks fell in the morning as investors reacted to the departure of Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who was seen as a proponent of free trade.

Trump has been resisting calls to reverse his stance and has said he will impose tariffs in coming days. "And it's true", Trump said.

"We are eager not to escalate this", European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said.

But did hint on Twitter earlier this week that he would reconsider tariffs on Canada and Mexico if a "new & fair NAFTA agreement" is signed. Lawmakers of his own Republican Party have been turning up the pressure, warning of severe political and economic ramifications and the potential for a trade war from such broad-based measures.

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With demand for USA steel expected to increase, United States Steel Corp said it would restart one of two blast furnaces and steel-making facilities and rehire 500 employees at its Granite City, Illinois, plant.

"That would be case-by-case and country-by-country basis, but it would be determined whether or not there is a national security exemption", she said at a press briefing.

"A trade war has no winners and if it does not happen, for the better, then we can work with our American friends and other allies on the core issue of this problem, overcapacity", European Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmstrom said.

The increased likelihood of tit-for-tat trade measures and its impact on global growth hit shares, oil and the dollar.

Data released Wednesday showed U.S. foreign trade deficit widened in January to its highest level in nine years, heaping pressure on Trump, who had campaigned on a promise to reverse that trend. "We're not looking for a trade war".

"Trade promotes prosperity if it's based on exchange, on working together", Brigitte Zypries, Germany's outgoing economy minister, said in a statement.

Trump is pushing the tariffs as a national security necessity, but also as a way to revitalize the USA steel industry, which employs around 140,000 people. Cohn, a registered Democrat, had become an invaluable asset for congressional Republicans, helping usher through the party's massive tax package previous year and serving as an economic liaison to a White House that some on Capitol hill have found to be chaotic, divided and hard to predict at times.