Donald Trump said Thursday morning that he was anticipating a mid-afternoon "meeting" about his promised tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, raising questions about whether he's ready to sign off on the punitive trade measures.
Indications suggest that White House officials were scrambling recently to formulate Trump's tariffs, which will apparently go into effect two weeks from now.
Canadian Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrysta Freeland both said last week that Canada was requesting an exemption to the tariffs, citing the interdependent nature of the North American aluminum market, but they were clear the government is willing to retaliate if need be.
Quebec business groups are sounding the alarm that Canada's temporary exemption from tariffs for its aluminum and steel exports to the United States isn't enough to ease their concerns caused by the climate of uncertainty.
The president's move to impose punitive tariffs is meant to fulfil a campaign promise to protect the U.S. steel industry and bring back jobs to numerous blighted Rust Belt communities in swing states that helped elect him in 2016. Or do we actually have plenty of steel for that, and we're doing this to punish countries that we have a trade deficit with?
The process of announcing the penalties has been the subject of an intense debate and chaotic exchanges within the White House, pitting hard-liners against free trade advocates such as outgoing economic adviser Gary Cohn aiming to add more flexibility for US trading partners.
McConnell and Ryan noted that Trump had given a loophole to some allies, but indicated they are concerned they don't go far enough.
Lawmakers, however, a great deal of whom are Republicans, have publicly opposed Trump's tariff plan.
However, many Republicans have expressed discontent with Trump's plans for a global trade war.
In a tweet, he said the "U.S.is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft".
More than 100 House Republicans wrote Trump on Wednesday, asking him to reconsider "the idea of broad tariffs to avoid unintended negative consequences" to the USA economy and workers.
Worsening trade ties will test China's policy of "strategic composure" in dealing with Mr Trump's America First ethos.
'We urge the administration to take this risk seriously, ' Donohue said. China accounts for only a small fraction of USA steel imports, but its massive industrial expansion has helped create a global glut of steel that has driven down prices.
But Trump also seemed to leave the door open for certain forms of compromise, saying the United States would remain "flexible" toward its trading allies.
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde said no one wins in a trade battle and warned the proposed tariffs could have a serious negative economic impact. Some countries might qualify for an exemption if their products "no longer threaten our security", the president said.
South Korea and Australia both said they would seek exceptions.