WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday slapped deeply contentious trade tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum, swatting aside warnings of a global trade war and protests from allies in Europe and at home.

The tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum will come into effect in 15 days, the White House said. They will not apply to Canada and Mexico initially, an official said, adding that security and trade partners could negotiate to seek exemption.

The measures are likely to spark retaliatory sanctions from the European Union, China and other economic powers. Moving to fulfil a protectionist campaign promise, Trump leaned on a little-used national security clause in US trade law. “This is a promise made, a promise kept,” a senior administration official said, “no one should be surprised.” The metals are used in everything from cars to construction, roads to railways. Economists estimate billions of dollars of trade will be affected.

Hours before the signing, Trump told his cabinet that these products were the “backbone of our nation, they are the bedrock of defense industrial base.”

The mercurial 45th president compared his action to those of predecessors George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and William McKinley.—AFP