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The Latest: WH Says Some Countries May Get Tariff Exemptions

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum (all times local):

2:58 p.m.

The White House says Mexico, Canada, and other countries may be exempted from President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs under national security "carve-outs."

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tells reporters that the exemptions would be on a "case by case" and a "country by country" basis.

The openness to country exemptions is a reversal from the policy articulated by the White House just days ago that there would be no exceptions to Trump's plan to put in place 25 percent tariffs on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum.

Sanders says Trump will finalize the tariffs later this week. The plan has roiled markets and drawn consternation from American allies, Republican free-trade advocates, and the business community.

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11:42 a.m.

As Trump prepares to formally institute tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum, he's in the final stages of decision-making on another tough trade action.

In a Wednesday tweet, Trump says, "The U.S. is acting swiftly on Intellectual Property theft."

A White House official says Trump is referencing the ongoing Section 301 investigation of China, under which the U.S. Trade Representative is studying whether Chinese intellectual property rules are "unreasonable or discriminatory" to American business.

An announcement of the findings of the report, and possible retaliatory actions, is expected within the next three weeks.

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11:30 a.m.

The head of the world's largest business federation is urging President Donald Trump to refrain from imposing new global tariffs on steel and aluminum, warning it risks a trade war and will hurt the U.S. economy.

In a sharply worded statement, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue says his group is "very concerned" about a potential trade war. He says it would risk the economic momentum spurred on by the new tax law.

Donohue says the tariffs would "directly harm American manufacturers" and lead to "widespread retaliation from our trading partners." He says it will not address the "true problem of Chinese steel and aluminum overcapacity."

Business leaders and Republicans in Congress are pressuring Trump to change course on the planned tariffs, warning it would hurt the economy.

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11:15 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the administration is asking China to trim the huge trade surplus it runs with the United States, the largest of any country.

The U.S. deficit with China hit a record $375 billion last year. Trump says Wednesday on Twitter that China has been asked to cut the surplus by $1 billion, or three-tenths of a percent.

Trump tweets: "China has been asked to develop a plan for the year of a One Billion Dollar reduction in their massive Trade Deficit with the United States." He says the U.S. relationship with China "has been a very good one, and we look forward to seeing what ideas they come back with. We must act soon!"

Trump says in a separate tweet that the U.S. is "acting swiftly" on intellectual property theft. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer is overseeing an investigation into whether China is systematically violating U.S. intellectual property rights, particularly in the technology industry.

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10:18 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump should back off his plan to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum.

He says the problem with the proposed 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum is that it could draw reciprocal sanctions on American-made goods. He says the U.S. needs to avoid a trade war. Schumer, the Senate's top Democrat, is lending his voice to that of GOP leaders who have been critical of Trump's latest trade proposal.

But Schumer calls the president's "instincts to go after China" correct. He says China steals intellectual property from U.S. companies and also dumps counterfeit products into the U.S.

The New York lawmaker says, "Mr. President, focus on China. Go after China."

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9:05 a.m.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the White House is seeking to take a "surgical approach" to new tariffs, saying it is possible Canada and Mexico could be exempted.

House Speaker Paul Ryan used the same language Tuesday in calling for President Donald Trump to use a more targeted "surgical approach" to avert a potentially dangerous trade war.

Ross told reporters Wednesday: "The president indicated that if we can work something out with Canada and Mexico they will be exempted." He says it's "not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis."

Trump plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports. But he has held out the possibility that Canada and Mexico might not face tariffs if they are willing to offer more favorable terms under the North American Free Agreement, which is being renegotiated.

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12:17 a.m.

More warnings are coming in response to President Donald Trump's plan to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.

Congressional Republicans and industry groups are pressing the president to narrow his plan for across-the-board tariffs. A visiting head of state, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, said during a joint news conference with Trump that increased tariffs will hurt everyone in the long run.

And the president's top economic adviser and an opponent of tariffs, Gary Cohn, announced his plans to depart the White House.

Nonetheless, Trump has reiterated his plans as a response to mistreatment of the U.S. in trade deals. He's leaving open the possibility that Canada and Mexico could be spared if they're willing to offer more favorable terms under a renegotiated North American Free Agreement.

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