President Trump defied opposition from his own party and protests from overseas on Thursday (March 8) as he prepared to sign orders imposing stiff new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. But he sought to soften the impact on America’s closest allies with a more flexible plan than originally envisioned.

As reported by the New York Times, after a week of furious lobbying and a burst of last-minute internal debates and confusion, Trump agreed to exempt, for now, Canada and Mexico and held out the possibility of later excluding allies such as Australia. But the order, which would go into effect in 15 days, could hit South Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Turkey and Brazil and foreign leaders warned of a trade war that could escalate to other industries and be aimed at American goods.

The orders represented Trump’s most expansive use of federal power to rewrite the rules of global trade since he took office and upended the prevailing consensus on free markets that has largely governed Washington under administrations of both parties for decades. A longtime critic of globalization, Trump argued that the United States has been ravaged by unfair trading partners, particularly in fading sectors like steel and aluminum.

The orders will raise levies on foreign steel by 25 percent and on imported aluminum by 10 percent. Business groups have warned that the impact could be felt across the supply chain as consumers face higher prices for automobiles, appliances and other consumer goods. But Trump’s aides dismissed such predictions as overwrought and said most Americans will hardly notice any impact.

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