Raise tariffs on goods imported into the U.S.

“Any country that devalues their currency to take unfair advantage of the United States and all of its companies that can’t compete will face tariffs and taxes to stop the cheating.”

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at


Waiting on steel and aluminum tariffs

At a meeting with steel and aluminum industry CEOs, President Donald Trump announced March 1, 2018, that he would impose tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.

"You're going to see a lot of good things happen," Trump said. "You will have protection for the first time in a long while, and you're going to regrow your industries."

Trump said he would sign the tariffs into effect the following week.

That has yet to happen.

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters March 5 that "in terms of the specifics of what it looks like, I'm not going to get into that right now because those things are being finalized."

The same day, House Speaker Paul Ryan pushed back against tariffs.

"We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan," said Ryan spokeswomen Ashlee Strong in a written statement. "The new tax reform law has boosted the economy and we certainly don't want to jeopardize those gains."

Tweets from Trump hinted that the final rules might exclude Canada and Mexico.

"Tariffs on steel and aluminum will only come off if new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed," Trump tweeted March 5.

See Figure 1 on

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also spoke of flexibility.

"We're not looking for a trade war," Ross said on CNBC March 7. "We're going to have very sensible relations with our allies. We hope and we believe that at the end of the day, there will be a process of working with the other countries that are our friends."

European Commission trade officials have floated a possible list of American goods that might be targeted if Trump makes good on his threat of tariffs. The items include Harley Davidson motorcycles (made in Wisconsin), bourbon (made in Kentucky), orange juice, peanut butter and cranberries.

Resistance to these tariffs is strong. As the controversy unfolded, Gary Cohn, the head of Trump's National Economic Council, announced he would step down in a few weeks.

We will see where this all leads, but for now, we keep the rating at In the Works.


White House, Remarks by President Trump in Listening Session with Representatives from the Steel and Aluminum Industry, March 1, 2018

Reuters, House Speaker Ryan hopes Trump will consider other approaches to steel tariff, March 1, 2018

White House, Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting, March 5, 2018

White House, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, March 5, 2018

National Review, 'We Are Extremely Worried' — Ryan Comes Out Strong against Trump's Trade War, March 5, 2018

Donald Trump tweet, March 5, 2018

The Guardian, Europe threatens tariffs on US peanut butter and orange juice as trade war looms, March 7, 2018

CNBC, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: 'We're not trying to blow up the world' with tariffs, March 7, 2018


Investigations into trade practices could mean more tariffs

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump called for tariffs on imports from countries that he deemed untrustworthy.

"I'm going to instruct my treasury secretary to label China a currency manipulator, the greatest in the world," Trump said at a campaign rally in Tampa. "Any country that devalues their currency in order to take unfair advantage of the United States, and all of its companies who can't compete, will face tariffs and taxes to stop the cheating. And when they see that, they will stop the cheating."

In other public appearances, Trump floated the idea of slapping a 45 percent tariff on Chinese exports to the United States.

The Treasury Department did not label China as a currency manipulator in an Oct. 17 report, but the political pressure on Trump to meet his campaign promise remains. So far, the White House administration's strategy has focused on increasing enforcement of fair trade practices.

Of note, the U.S. Commerce Department on Nov. 28 "self-initiated" an investigation into whether imports of aluminum sheets from China were being sold at unfairly low prices or were subsidized. If the investigation finds that either practice occurred, the Commerce Department will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting dues from U.S. companies importing Chinese-made aluminum sheets.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the investigation is part of a larger initiative to increase enforcement.

"President Trump made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise," Ross said in the investigation's announcement. "We are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair and reciprocal trade."

Most Commerce Department trade cases are initiated after an industry group or company files a petition notifying the department of suspicious trade practices. It is unusual, but not unprecedented, for the Commerce Department to initiate investigations on its own.

The Commerce Department said it has increased the number of antidumping and countervailing duty investigations by 65 percent this year compared with last year.

Dan Ikenson, the director of the Cato Institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, said most of the Commerce Department's enforcement has little to do with the White House administration, and he doesn't think the increase in investigations is out of the ordinary. He said he thought the administration would take a more aggressive approach to imposing tariffs, given Trump's rhetoric during the campaign.

Still, it's clear that Trump is looking for avenues to implement tariffs. He asked the Commerce Department in April to investigate the effects of aluminum and steel imports on the needs of U.S. military defense. The results of the investigations could allow the government to raise broad tariffs on those industries, if the trade practices in those industries are shown to hurt national security.

Since the Commerce Department has taken a more aggressive stance on enforcement, there's a chance we could see more tariffs in the future. We'll rate this In the Works.


U.S. Commerce Department, "U.S. Department of Commerce Self-Initiates Historic Antidumping and Countervailing Duty Investigations on Common Alloy Aluminum Sheet From China," Nov. 28, 2017

U.S. Treasury Department, "Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States," Oct. 17, 2017

The White House, "Aluminum Imports and Threats to National Security," April 27, 2017

U.S. Commerce Department, "Presidential Memorandum Prioritizes Commerce Steel Investigation," April 20, 2017

The New York Times, "Donald Trump Says He Favors Big Tariffs on Chinese Exports," Jan. 7, 2016

C-SPAN, Donald Trump campaign rally in Tampa, Aug. 24, 2017

Phone interview, Dan Ikenson, director of the Cato institute's Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies, Dec. 1, 2017