Trump singles out Australia

The US President has talked up the US-Australian relationship this morning, singling out Australia as an “ally” that may not face the steel and aluminium tariffs he is imposing.

Speaking to reporters this morning, he specifically noted Australia as a country that may receive a special deal.

“We have a very close relationship with Australia, we have a trade surplus with Australia, great country long term partner we’ll be doing something with them,” Mr Trump said.

He also said his administration would be “flexible” with the tariffs, and look at our trade relationships with other countries to determine who would and would not be affected.

But despite Mr Trump’s comments about America’s relationship with Australia, there is no deal to exempt us from the tariffs.

The tariffs will become effective in 15 days, with exemptions for Canada and Mexico taking place “immediately”, according to officials.

“Depending on whether or not we reach a deal — also very much involved with that is national defence — but if we reach a deal it’s most likely that we won’t be charging those two countries the tariffs,” Mr Trump said.

Australia may escape Donald Trump’s tariffs after all.

Australia may escape Donald Trump’s tariffs after all.Source:AFP

Australia has been frantically lobbying for exemptions over the past few days, after the President suggested earlier that no one would be immune.

Greg Norman, a friend of the president’s, was reportedly one of the key influencers who convinced him to reconsider imposing tariffs on Australia.

On Wednesday, the former champion golfer issued a letter with several business leaders playing on security concerns to argue for exemptions for Australian companies, The Australian reports.

“The value of Australia’s trading of steel and aluminium with the United States is an industry worth $545 million to Australia’s economy, which might be ­adversely affected should those tariffs be extended to include Australia or these companies,” the letter said. “Crippling these industries in our critical Pacific ally could seriously jeopardise our own power projection, readiness and repair capabilities in the Southern Hemisphere.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has confirmed Norman was called in to lobby for Australia’s exemption, according to the ABC.

Australian former golfer Greg Norman, who has a longstanding friendship with Donald Trump, helped influence his decision to exempt Australia from the tariffs.

Australian former golfer Greg Norman, who has a longstanding friendship with Donald Trump, helped influence his decision to exempt Australia from the tariffs.Source:Instagram

Mr Trump sent global markets tumbling late last week with his announcement of a 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium to protect US producers.

He said the American steel and aluminium industries had been “ravaged by aggressive foreign trade practices”.

“A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad,” he said. “When it comes time where our country can’t make aluminum and steel, you almost don’t have much of a country.

“It’s really an assault on our country. I’ve been talking about this a long time, a lot longer than my political career.”

The US is the world’s largest importer of steel, importing nearly four times as much as it exports, according to the White House.

Australia exports an estimated $274 million worth of steel and $276 million of aluminium to the US.

Mr Trump has also demanded concession from the European Union, complaining that it treated American cars unfairly and has threatened to hike tariffs on auto imports from Europe.

ASIA-PACIFIC COUNTRIES SIGN TRADE DEAL

Trade ministers from 11 Pacific Rim countries have signed a sweeping free trade agreement Thursday to streamline trade and slash tariffs.

The pact, which covers 500 million people, includes Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Speaking at the ceremony in Chile, Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the legislation to finalise thep act would be introduced this month.

“This is a very good day for trade,” he told a media conference in Santiago today. “We are sending a mutual signal that we recognise the policy orthodoxy of trade.”

Chile’s Foreign Affairs Minister Heraldo Munoz said the agreement was a signal “against protectionist pressures, in favour of a world open to trade, without unilateral sanctions and without the threat of trade wars”.

The deal will eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs in a marketplace worth close to $US14 trillion.

with wires

@gavindfernando | gavin.fernando@news.com.au

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