Allowing country exemptions is a notable departure from the broader tariffs Trump was said to favor last week, but which drew fast criticism from trading partners around the world who threatened to retaliate with tariffs of their own. He and Republicans, who hold more traditionally conservative positions on trade, believe the president's proposed 25 percent hike on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum will have real consequences, especially for manufacturers, car-makers and others who use the raw materials.
Sen. Orrin Hatch told reporters he thought Congress could stop the tariffs from being implemented. "We will continue to urge the administration to narrow this policy so that it is focused only on those countries and practices that violate trade law".
A senior administration official said those exemptions, however, could come at a price to other countries.
"If Donald Trump puts in place the measures this evening, we have a whole arsenal at our disposal with which to respond", European Financial Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said.
Trump also suggested Australia and "other countries" might be spared.
Uncertainty surrounds whether the tariffs will ultimately impact Canada, but for now, workers are bracing for the worst.
"We're going to be very fair, we're going to be very flexible but we're going to protect the American worker as I said I would do in my campaign", Trump said.
In Tokyo, the steel industry was also concerned that the protectionist measures could affect global trade. The proclamation is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. EST.
"We have to protect and build our steel and aluminum industries, while at same time showing flexibility and cooperation between those friends of ours on a trade basis and military basis", he said.
The president did not say whether he will sign tariffs on steel and aluminum imports at the meeting.
"And it is certainly not the right way to include Europe in that because we are friends, we are allies, we work together, we can not possibly be a threat to national security in the United States, so we are counting on being excluded". Cohn is expected to leave in the coming weeks, the White House announced Tuesday.
"If you look at any tariff, it will have a negative impact on U.S.jobs and also on US producers", he said, prior to the announcement.