President Donald Trump in a Thursday Cabinet meeting offered little clarity on his upcoming tariffs announcement and joked that his outgoing economic adviser Gary Cohn was a "globalist" who could one day return to the administration.
The president said he’s going to be “very fair” and “very flexible” on tariffs and reiterated he wants a 25 percent tariff on imported steel and 10 percent on imported aluminum.
But he then laid out a considerable amount of potential wiggle room for some countries.
“I’ll have a right to go up or down depending on the country and I’ll have a right to drop out countries or add countries,” Trump said. “I just want fairness, because we have not been treated fairly by other countries.”
The administration had already said Wednesday evening that Canada and Mexico would be initially exempted in whatever tariffs the president announces, although Trump said that could change depending on the results of negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA.
In a tweet earlier this morning, Trump said the U.S. must show quote "great flexibility and cooperation toward those that are real friends and treat us fairly on both trade and the military."
During the president's remarks on 'flexibility,' Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross clinked their water glasses. The two had been on opposite sides of this tariff fight – Mattis pushing for exemptions for national security while Ross has backed the tariffs, dismissing talk of retaliation by allies and the potential for lost jobs.
Trump also used the meeting as a farewell to Cohn, who announced his plans to resign this past Tuesday after failing to convince the president not to implement tariffs.
"He may be a globalist, but I still like him," the president said of Cohn, who was seated just behind him.
The president also teased a potential revolving door return in Cohn's future.
"He's going to go out and make another of couple hundred million, and then he's going to maybe come back," Trump said, though he added he didn't expect Cohn to return to his same position considering the tariffs fight.