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Trump announces restored tariffs on Argentina, Brazil

In early morning tweets announcing the duties, the president called out the two countries for devaluing their currency.

President Donald Trump announced Monday that he would reinstate tariffs on aluminum and steel imports from Argentina and Brazil, prodding the Federal Reserve to take measures to counter foreign currency devaluation.

“Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies. which is not good for our farmers. Therefore, effective immediately, I will restore the Tariffs on all Steel & Aluminum that is shipped into the U.S. from those countries,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

“The Federal Reserve should likewise act so that countries, of which there are many, no longer take advantage of our strong dollar by further devaluing their currencies,” he continued. “This makes it very hard for our manufactures & farmers to fairly export their goods. Lower Rates & Loosen - Fed!”

Argentina’s government announced in May 2018 that it would voluntarily cap its aluminum and steel exports to the U.S. in order to escape the Trump administration’s tariffs. Days later, Brazil’s government agreed to a quota in a compromise with the U.S., announcing it would accept the administration’s 10 percent tariff on aluminum paired with a limit on steel exports.

The president has long railed against other countries for allegedly devaluing their currencies in an attempt to bolster their bargaining power in global trade negotiations, while also complaining that the interest rates established by the U.S. central bank are too high.

Trump has frequently accused China of currency devaluation as officials in Beijing remain locked in a prolonged trade conflict with his administration, and he charged last year that Russia had perpetrated similar economic scheming.

The president’s tweets Monday morning come as the White House continues to advocate for congressional passage of Trump’s USMCA trade pact with Canada and Mexico before year’s end.

Trump last week declared the renegotiated NAFTA agreement and other legislative priorities “dead in the water” due to inaction by Democratic lawmakers, while Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted that House Democrats and administration officials were “within range” of a deal.

Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina could be ripe for a legal challenge of the president's use of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which was invoked to initially take the trade action. The previously little-used provision allows the president to impose trade restrictions if imports are considered a threat to national security.

But the U.S. Court of International Trade issued an opinion last month that faulted the president for violating the law by ignoring a 90-day deadline for imposing or altering tariffs when he decided to double the steel duty on Turkey in August 2018.

The legal opinion has also called into question Trump's general use of the law to threaten tariffs on auto imports from the European Union after he failed to meet a separate deadline set out in the law.

The ruling provides the first instance of a court pushing back on the Trump’s use of the law. Senate Republicans have been working on legislation to rein in the president's authority under the law, but a bill has yet to be introduced.

“The president’s expansive view of his power under section 232 is mistaken, and at odds with the language of the statute, its legislative history, and its purpose,” the court wrote in a Nov. 15 opinion.

Adam Behsudi contributed to this report.