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Trump unlikely to back away from established metals tariffs: Bracewell

Pittsburgh — Tariffs applied by the Trump administration under US trade law Sections 232, 201 and 301 are unlikely to be lifted in the near term, despite bilateral and multilateral trade discussions between the US and other countries, Josh Zive, senior principal of Bracewell LLP, said Wednesday.

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Speaking in a webinar hosted by the American Council on Renewable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlining the effects of tariffs on the renewable energy sector, Zive said US President Donald Trump has shown he is unwilling to step away from tariffs once they are in place.

In the case of the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum, despite giving Canada and Mexico a temporary exemption when they took effect in March 2018 as discussions continued regarding the updated US-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade, the US began applying tariffs on those countries in June and has been unwilling to remove them despite reaching a broader trade agreement.

There has been a "tremendous" amount of pressure on the Trump administration to scale back the Section 232 tariffs, Zive noted. Canada and Mexico have repeatedly called for the removal of the tariffs, while Republican leadership and steel consumers have also called on the administration to remove them.

"There's no shortage of pressure; the problem is that this is not a recent or lightly-held position by the president in this case, in terms of how he views the tariffs," Zive said. "He is the one who has said he wants to keep the Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs in place for a sustained time. I don't think anyone has found the formula to persuade him yet because I think he has committed to this course in an unequivocal manner."

In the case of the Section 201 tariffs on solar cells and modules introduced by Trump in January 2018, because those are in place for an established four-year period, a mid-term review of the trade measure will begin this summer, but it's unlikely to lead to their elimination, Zive said.

"I'm skeptical about the likelihood of relief you would get from the mid-term review in this case," he said. "We have not seen a cataclysmic effect that would make the pull back of the tariffs necessary from a political perspective."

-- Justine Coyne, justine.coyne@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Tom Balcerek, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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