Trump vows 'great flexibility' to 'real friends' in tariff row

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Trump has said the US will be "very fair" but "very flexible" and "protect the American worker".

"We're going to have sensible relations with our allies", he told CNBC, claiming that Trump's policy was well "thought through".

Trump imposed the tariffs - 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminium - despite repeated warnings from the European Union and other allies that this could trigger a full-on trade war.

And now he's committed Canada to an 11-nation trade partnership with Pacific Rim countries without US involvement, a deal that will permit, among other things, more foreign auto imports into Canada - which has already infuriated USA automakers and Canada's auto workers.

"We'll be doing something with them", the president was quoted as having said during a Cabinet meeting.

US President Donald Trump on Thursday signed a 25 percent tariff on steel imports that is certain to add pressure on South Korean exports.

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It is hard to defend gerrymanders that slice and dice existing political communities on any grounds other than naked partisanship. Trump won Texas by 9 points in 2016, the smallest margin of victory by a Republican presidential candidate in Texas in 20 years.

His positive words for Australia came after intense lobbying from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and, according to some reports, Mr Trump's friend and champion Australian golfer Greg Norman.

Despite objections by many business trade groups, by most Democrats and Republicans, and by a number of advisers in the Trump administration, the United States president forged ahead with his plan on Thursday, keeping a promise he made during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Fox says he will travel to Washington next week when he will discuss the new duties.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop won't have time to meet him before she flies home from the USA, but said Australia's ambassador Joe Hockey will push the case.

Trudeau spoke separately by phone on Thursday with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, prominent Republican critics of the tariffs proposal.

The EU produces 177 million tonnes of steel and exports around 5 million tonnes of steel to the United States every year, a small share, overall.

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The new tariffs will take effect in 15 days, with Canada and Mexico indefinitely exempted "to see if we can make the deal", Trump said.

Trump ordered higher tariffs Thursday, citing what he said was the need to protect U.S. national security by ensuring the survival of the country's metals producers.

Europe's main steel federation said Trump's reasons for slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum are absurd and warned that the move could cost tens of thousands of jobs across the continent. The White House has been quick to link exemptions for Canada and Mexico to the ongoing negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying the exemptions will remain in place as long as NAFTA talks progress.

"When it comes to a time when our country can't make aluminum and steel you nearly don't have a country", Trump said.

The EU has already threatened to retaliate by imposing huge levies on iconic American products.

"Instead of getting right at China, the president's across-the-board tariffs will cause more damage to key allies and other domestic industries", Schumer said.

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