US, Australia working quickly on a 'security agreement' to avoid 232 tariffs

Malcolm Turnbull has warned the US off its plan to impose hefty new tariffs on Australia

Turnbull told reporters that Trump "was able to confirm that he would not have to impose tariffs on Australian steel and aluminium", and that now the paperwork will be done "to put that direction into effect".

Trump on Thursday afternoon signed paperwork to impose tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, despite warnings from Republicans, Democrats and worldwide leaders that such a move could have unintended consequences.

Countries have 15 days before the tariffs become law to pursue an exemption.

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.

She was cautiously optimistic about the White House U-turn. "This is a very important matter for Australia, it's also a very important principle", she said.

"Thank you for confirming new tariffs won't have to be imposed on Australian steel & aluminum - good for jobs in Australia and in United States!"

Australia has been lobbying hard for an exemption based on national security grounds, as Mr Trump promised "great partners and military allies" may sidestep the tariffs.

Elon Musk's tweets on tariffs 'very interesting'
The company had raised the issue with the prior U.S. administration, Musk added, but nothing had happened. Trump Administration officials said that policy could become official this week. "We just want fairness".

Labor says it's important the government has a contingency plan.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said Australia is proceeding in a calm and collected manner, and can't afford to take the tariff issue personally.

Trade minister Steve Ciobo on Friday signed the 11-country deal, which will eliminate 98 per cent of tariffs in a marketplace worth close to $US14 trillion.

The European Union has warned it could retaliate on USA imports, including on products such as motorbikes, bourbon and jeans.

European Union industry commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, who is visiting Australia, said it was important to send a strong message supporting trade liberalisation.

"We are prepared, as we were prepared for Brexit, we're prepared for this", Ms Bienkowska said.

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