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Trump Backtracks On Brazil Steel Tariffs

President Trump has changed his mind about taxing steel and aluminum imports from Brazil.

Trump assured Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in a telephone call that he would not follow through with a tariff threat he'd leveled earlier this month.

Brazil is a major supplier of imported steel to the United States, so financial markets were rattled when Trump abruptly tweeted on Dec. 2 that he would reimpose a 25% tariff on Brazilian steel. The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 326 points that day, as it appeared Trump was opening a new front in his trade war against a friendly government.

Trump accused both Brazil and Argentina of "massive" currency devaluations, which he said were hurting U.S. farmers.

Less than three weeks later, Trump is backtracking on the Brazilian tariffs. Reuters first reported on the call between Trump and Bolsonaro, which was confirmed by NPR.

It's not clear whether the president still plans to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum from Argentina. Since the Dec. 2 tweet, Trump has appeared to dial down trade tensions. He struck a Phase 1 trade agreement with China last week and won the backing of House Democrats for an updated trade pact with Mexico and Canada.

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Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.