"There are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security and possibly other countries as well, based on that process", press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, hinting that Japan and other US allies may be exempted from the controversial measure.
The EU intends to hit a range of USA 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.
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.
The article really exposes more about Gary Cohn, the outgoing economic adviser, who knew what Trump really believed about free trade when he took his job in the administration.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders gave the first indication that there may be relief for some countries. "Frankly, it's a disgrace, the sanctuary city situation, the protection of these terrible criminals", Trump said last month.
The Washington Post reports the two North American nations would get a 30-day exception and that other countries may also enjoy exemptions from the tariff proposed on steel and aluminum imports.
A new report Wednesday said the USA trade deficit in January - the amount its imports exceeded its exports - reached $56.6 billion, the highest monthly total since October 2008.
And this week the administration has been hinting at a possible middle-of-the road approach: temporary relief for Canada and Mexico, with the threat of tariffs as a USA negotiating weapon at the NAFTA bargaining table. "You could maybe walk away from a real-estate transaction - we really can't walk away from these trade agreements without jeopardizing the economy". "Because tariffs are taxes that make US businesses less competitive and USA consumers poorer, any tariffs that are imposed should be created to address specific distortions caused by unfair trade practices in a targeted way while minimizing negative consequences on American businesses and consumers".
She said decisions would be made on a "case-by-case and country-by-country basis". The Canadian dollar was down 0.21 percent to 1.29 per US dollar.
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The increased likelihood of tit-for-tat trade measures and its impact on global growth hit shares, oil and the dollar.
"China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States", Trump tweeted, mistakenly referring to a deficit where Beijing runs a surplus.
Canada is the No. 1 exporter of steel and aluminum into the US, which is looking to impose tariffs under a rarely used national-security provision in a 1962 law, which some critics have called either illegitimate or likely to start copycat measures that threaten the global trading system.
Cohn led the charge on a tax cut proposal approved by Congress in December, but lost the internal struggle against moreprotectionist voices over trade tariffs.
ANALYST'S TAKE: "For the markets, Gary Cohn's departure certainly points strongly to the likelihood that little can halt the President from going ahead with his tariff plans and may mark more volatility to come for markets", said Jingyi Pan, a market strategist at IG in Singapore.
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