Trump gives ground on tariffs as pressure mounts09 March 2018 AFP, Washington
The White House signaled Wednesday it would water down plans for contentious tariffs, in the face of threats from trade partners, financial market jitters and a revolt within Donald Trump's own Republican party.
The US administration said the president still plans to sign off on global steel and aluminum tariffs as early as Thursday, but indicated there could yet be exemptions for infuriated allies.
"There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada, based on national security. And possibly other countries as well," press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters at the White House.
The Washington Post, citing administration officials, later reported the two countries would get a "temporary exemption" of 30 days.
From shortly after dawn, administration big guns rushed to the cameras, trying to limit the fallout from a Trump policy that has already sparked fears of a global trade war, rattled stock markets and prompted the top White House economic advisor to quit.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted the tariffs were "thought through" and not the caprice of a president running a White House that appears to be careering off the rails.
"We're going to have sensible relations with our allies," he told CNBC, "we're not looking for a trade war."
But Trump's impromptu move has already set Washington on a collision course with its largest trading partner the European Union, which sounded a stern warning Wednesday as it readied to retaliate with targeted tariffs of its own on everything from steel to denim to peanut butter.