Washington: US President Donald Trump's administration considered imposing tariffs on imports from Australia last week, but decided against it amid fierce opposition from military officials and the State Department, a media report said.
Informed sources told The New York Times on Sunday that some of Trump's top trade advisers including Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, and Peter Navarro, the director of the White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy, had urged the tariffs as a response to a surge of Australian aluminium flowing onto the American market over the past year.
But Defence and State Departments officials told Trump the move would alienate a top ally and could come at significant cost to the US.
The administration ultimately agreed not to take any action, the sources said.
The measure would open yet another front in a global trade war that has pitted the US against allies like Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan, and deepened divisions with countries like China.
It would also be the end of a reprieve for the only country to be fully exempted from the start from steel and aluminium tariffs that Trump imposed last year.
Trump imposed a 25 per cent tariff on imported steel and a 10 per cent tariff on imported aluminium from many countries last year, The New York Times reported.
The move was an effort to shield American producers from low-priced imports, which the administration said were a threat to the domestic industrial base and therefore national security.
Some countries, like Brazil, Argentina and South Korea, won temporary exemptions on some of their imports, but ultimately agreed to limits on how much metal they could ship to the US.
Aluminium imports from Australia rose by 45 per cent from 2017 to 2018. They are up even more, by 350 per cent, for the first three months of 2019, compared with the same period in 2018.