03/07/2018 15:09 EST | Updated 03/07/2018 15:27 EST

Canada May Be Spared From Trump's Steel, Aluminum Tariffs, White House Suggests

Mexico too!

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump shake hands during a joint news conference at the White House on Feb. 13, 2017.

WASHINGTON — Canada and Mexico may get a special exemption from the impact of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial steel and aluminum tariffs, a White House spokeswoman suggested Wednesday.

"There are potential carve-outs for Canada and Mexico based on national security -- and possibly other countries as well, based on that process," Sarah Sanders said during her daily media briefing.

"That would be a case-by-case and country-by-country basis."

There's a last-minute scramble on to have Canada spared from the U.S. tariff plan, which could be announced as early as Thursday.

Intense debates have been going on within the Trump administration about whether to offer any exemptions: some argue that Canada and Mexico should get relief at least as long as NAFTA is being negotiated.

The White House's latest comment suggest that might indeed happen. The administration has hinted that the tariffs could eventually wallop the neighbours in the event that NAFTA talks fail, and Wednesday's remarks from Sanders suggest any tariffs will not be imminent.

In New York, Washington and Texas, a number of Canadian officials have been reaching out to American peers — some of whom have been pleading the Canadian case.

Like 'The Apprentice'?

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has just spoken with congressional leader Paul Ryan and Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton was to dine tonight with U.S. national security adviser H.R. McMaster.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has chatted with Pentagon counterpart James Mattis, UN ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard has spoken with U.S. counterpart Nikki Haley and Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr is raising the issue with Energy Secretary Rick Perry at a conference in Texas.

A source familiar with the international 11th-hour scramble to stop the tariffs likened it to a high-stakes reality-show content, with a drama-courting U.S. president at the centre of the production: "(It's a) last-episode-of-'The-Apprentice' kind of thing."

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