Trump, stating that US companies and their labor force have always lost against friends and enemies at trade agreements signed by the previous White House administrations and the country has thus lost its iron and steel and aluminum sectors, with the slogan "Make America Great Again", points out that it is time for change.
The WTO's Dispute Settlement Body has never arbitrated a case filed under its national security clause - known as Article 21 - which was first enshrined after World War II in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
For Trump, America's expanding trade deficit - the dollar value of goods and services we import from other nations being greater than what we export - combined with foreign protectionist policies and subsidies, has been a point of contention.
But the drama isn't over.
Trump suggested before he signed the orders imposing the tariffs that Australia and "other countries" could also be exempted. Spokeswomen Ashlee Strong for House Speaker Paul Ryan stated the following statement, "We are extremely anxious about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan" (NPR).
A week of uncertainty preceded the signing as Trump spoke positively of a global trade war and little was known about how extensive the tariffs would be.
Trump has been opposed on the tariff plans by Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House economic adviser Gary Cohn, who have warned against penalizing USA allies and undercutting the economic benefits of the president's tax overhaul. Senior administration officials indicated that countries seeking exemptions will need to negotiate bilateral deals to address U.S. national security concerns. "And if we get that, all's good with Canada and Mexico".
The proposal, which is expected to be unveiled on Thursday, would give Canada and Mexico a 30-day exemption from the tariffs, the Post reported, citing administration officials. The Trump administration may have already answered the second.
"They send in timber, they send in steel, they send in a lot of things". Recent weeks have seen other departures and negative news stories that have left Trump increasingly isolated, according to senior officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal discussions.
The Canadian government isn't celebrating yet. Gesturing to the workers, Trump said part of the reason he's in the White House was "because of you and my message having to do with you". "We're going to see what he actually announces... but we're continuing to push on getting the right deal for Canada, getting the right deal for Canadians".
Japan, the United States's top economic and military ally in Asia, was next in line.
Behind the scenes, a full-court, 11th-hour diplomatic press was underway Wednesday. From Capitol Hill, to cable TV, to the Wall Street Journal editorial pages, numerous commentators ridiculed the idea of a supposed national-security tariff applied to Canada.
"Today is a step forward", Chrystia Freeland, Canada's foreign minister, told reporters in Toronto March 8.
"Do you not care that 32,000 skilled men and women who work in our steel sector are fearful for their jobs and their families' future".
But the same official said it truly is a matter of national security - with six USA aluminum smelters shutting down the last few years, and just five remaining, and only two operating at full capacity, he said that leaves the U.S.at risk of having to import all its aluminum eventually.
Trudeau, in contrast, literally grew incoherent trying to explain Canada's steel and aluminum trade relationship with the USA a week ago.
The biggest American business lobby is among those fighting the plan. Canada and Mexico are excluded from the levies - provided they agree to renegotiate a North American trade deal to his satisfaction - and other countries could be as well.
Business leaders, too, sounded their alarm about the potential economic fallout, warning that American consumers would be hurt by higher prices.