WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced on Thursday that it would impose tariffs on metals imported from its closest allies, a measure that could provoke retaliation against American businesses.
A 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, which supply nearly half of America’s imported metal, will go into effect at midnight Thursday, Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, said on a call with reporters.
Those countries had secured temporary exemptions to the initial metal tariffs, which were announced in late March, while the Trump administration continued to push them for concessions on other fronts, like voluntarily limiting their metal shipments to the United States and cutting tariffs on other products. But Mr. Ross said that, while discussions with the Europeans had been ongoing, the progress had not warranted either another temporary exemption or a permanent exemption.
The tariffs are meant to make good on President Trump’s long-standing promises to protect American industry. But they have prompted a fierce response from allies, who have already readied lists of American products they plan to tax in return, as well as American businesses that use steel and aluminum, which are seeing their costs rise as a result of the measure.
The tariffs have been carried out under a legal measure that revolves around protecting America’s national security. Mr. Ross defended the principle on Thursday, saying, “We take the view that without a strong economy, you can’t have strong national security.”
The European Union and Canada have objected strongly to the use of the national security argument, citing their close alliance and defense agreements with the United States. On Wednesday, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister called the idea that metal imports from her country would threaten American national security “frankly absurd.”