Trump justified the move by saying those countries’ weak currencies make it harder for US food exports to compete.
According to US President Donald Trump, Brazil and Argentina have been presiding over a massive devaluation of their currencies–and US farmers have been the big losers.
While Mr Trump imposed 25% tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium imports last year, citing national security grounds, he later granted a handful of exceptions after criticism both abroad and at home, where many US manufacturers rely on foreign metal imports.
As such, the plan to restore the tariffs, which Mr Trump typically announced on Twitter, came as a surprise.
Mr Trump’s metals tariffs have led countries around the world to impose retaliatory tariffs on US goods, including farm exports, negatively impacting an important group of the president’s voters.
Across the country, farm bankruptcies surged 24% in the 12 months through October 2018, according to analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Brazil is the world’s 10th biggest exporter of steel and the US is its biggest customer, according to the US Department of Commerce.
Yet despite Mr Trump’s claims, both Brazil and Argentina have taken steps over the past two years to try to bolster their currencies, which have dropped sharply amid domestic political turmoil and economic woes.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said he would seek talks with Mr Trump.
“Their (the US) economy is not comparable with ours, it’s many times bigger,” Bolonaro said in a radio interview. “I don’t see this as retaliation… Our economy basically comes from commodities, it’s what we’ve got.”
Argentine production minister Dante Sica said he would also request a conversation with his US counterparts.