Notwithstanding historically close political and economic ties, and the warm personal relationship between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has yet to be given a tariff exemption for its steel and aluminum exports to the US, according to Israeli business daily Calcalist.
Israel joins Canada, Mexico and the European Union in the list of US allies not enjoying exemptions to the cross-the-board 25% tariffs on steel and 10% tariffs on aluminum introduced by President Trump in March amid "national security" concerns. Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea did receive such permanent exemptions.
"We are disappointed that despite Israel's special status as a true friend of the US and the Free Trade Agreement [between the countries],Israel has not been excluded from the imposition of tariffs like Australia," he said, speaking to US Trade Representative Daniel Mullaney.
Israeli steel and aluminum exports to the US are modest, amounting to some $25 million a year. However, according to Catarivas, the tariffs amount to a "death blow" for Israeli manufacturers, and could hit associated industries as well.
US-Israeli relations under President Trump reached a new high this year after Washington moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem amid protests from the international community, including the US's European allies. The US decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal in May was also enthusiastically supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had been lobbying the idea for years.
President Trump has pushed a tough trade agenda in an effort to balance the US's global trade deficit, which amounted to some $566 billion in 2017. Measures have included trade restrictions, including tariffs, which pushed US economic relations with Canada, the EU, China and other countries to the brink of a trade war.