Protectionism not in Australia's interests: Turnbull

The White House changed tack today saying there there could be tariff exemptions

Earlier Mr Trump announced that he'd spoken to Mr Turnbull and the two nations were working on a deal to provide an exemption to the tariffs.

Trump "emphatically" promised Turnbull that Australian steel and aluminum would be exempt from any steel and aluminum tariffs imposed by the US, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

According to the report, Australian Ambassador to Washington Joe Hockey, called Norman on behalf of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, to give Turnbull Trump's personal cell phone number.

"We can take some comfort in the criteria for exclusion being a defence ally without a trade surplus with the U.S., a criteria which Australia clearly meets", Mr Willox said on Friday.

During yesterday's signing of the tariffs, 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, he confirmed Canada and Mexico would be exempted permanently if the ongoing renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement is successful.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop is in NY urgently seeking a meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to raise concerns about the tariff hike.

Julie Bishop said earlier today Australia was unlikely to be exempt from the tariffs
Protectionism not in Australia's interests: Turnbull

The announcement sparked talk of a trade war and fears the Australian mining industry would be placed under even more pressure as it attempts to compete with some of the world's biggest exporters.

In the immediate aftermath, Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo told local media that he was "seeking urgent clarification" from USA officials to see if Australia would be exempt.

Norman, who is friends with Trump, and other prominent Australian business leaders reportedly reminded the president that the USA has a trade surplus with Australia.

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"We (will) work hard to ensure Australia's interests will be taken into account", she told the Nine Network after the White House statement.

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