President Donald Trump told reporters Wednesday night that he may slap quotas and tariffs on steel, according to a newly released transcript of a previously off-the-record conversation on his way to Paris for meetings.
"Steel is a big problem," Trump said on board Air Force One. "I mean, they’re dumping steel. Not only China, but others. We’re like a dumping ground, O.K.? They’re dumping steel and destroying our steel industry. They’ve been doing it for decades, and I’m stopping it. It’ll stop."
Asked how he would do that, Trump replied: "There are two ways — quotas and tariffs. Maybe I’ll do both."
The exchange came as the Commerce Department is preparing to make its recommendation in two separate investigations into whether it is necessary to restrict steel and aluminum imports in order to protect national security.
The probes have raised worries about about a damaging trade war that could expose U.S. exports to retaliation. It has also led to concerns about price increases for domestic steel users, such as the auto and oil and gas industries.
In a related vein, Trump again voiced his determination to rein in trade deficits with China and South Korea, which he blamed on "horrible" trade deals negotiated by previous administrations. He also repeated the idea of using trade as leverage to get more cooperation with China on North Korea.
"The biggest strength we have are these horrendous trade deals, like with China," Trump said. "That’s our strength. But we’re going to fix them. But in terms of North Korea, our strength is trade."