Senate Republicans were trying to gauge where they'd turn next on trade and, more importantly, whom they would lean on in the future, a day after top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn announced he was resigning amid a public rift on trade with President Donald Trump.
However, according to The Wall Street Journal, at the White House yesterday, aides began preparations for the ceremony ushering in a turn in trade policy that could recalibrate relations between the USA and its allies and trading partners.
Cohn, the director of the National Economic Council, was known to disagree with the tariff plan, which has also drawn criticism from Republicans in Congress as well as from much of corporate America.
"Gary has been my chief economic advisor and did a superb job in driving our agenda, helping to deliver historic tax cuts and reforms and unleashing the American economy once again". "He is a rare talent, and I thank him for his dedicated service".
European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen told AFP on Friday the bloc could form a "coalition of like-minded countries" to file a complaint at the WTO, though this procedure usually takes around two years.
Junior trade minister Greg Hands said that the government, led by Prime Minister Theresa May, would wait until the full tariff plan was released before commenting further on the issue, according to Reuters.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on Wednesday announced a three-pronged reaction to the U.S. tariff plan, which consisted of contesting the tariffs in the World Trade Organization (WTO), imposing additional tariffs on certain American exports to rebalance United States trade and implementing safeguards to protect the EU from a surge of aluminium and steel products diverted from the US.
A former silver trader who sweet-talked his way into his first job at the New York Commodity Exchange and was later the second-highest-ranking executive at Goldman Sachs, Cohn understood free markets and complex organizations but was not locked into a specific world view.
Reports of Cohn's likely resignation began to circulate nearly immediately. "It's not inconceivable that others could be exempted on a similar basis", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
But Cohn's departure from the White House still left GOP senators anxious that a crucial voice to push their position on something as critical as tariffs would be missing moving forward.
The president has said the tariffs are needed to reinforce lagging American steel and aluminum industries and protect national security.
Action that does not include exemptions risks retaliatory tariffs on United States exports - not least by Canada and Europe - and complicates already tough talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Last week he dismissed concerns he could trigger a trade war, instead saying "trade wars are good" and were something the U.S. would easily win. "It doesn't hurt us".
"Here's the situation, and the president has made this public", Navarro said.
The formal tariff announcement could come as early as Thursday.
Trump himself said, somewhat cryptically, that the measures will be imposed "in a long, loving way".