A deal exempting Australian steel from Donald Trump's tariffs could be done within two weeks after the president promised to help a United States' ally.
Malcolm Turnbull was pleased President Trump singled out Australia as a long-term US partner, but promised to be "relentless" until the deal is signed.
"We have a very close relationship with Australia," Mr Trump said before the formal announcement of his tariffs plan.
"We have a trade surplus with Australia. Great country. Long-term partner. We will be doing something with them."
Trade Minister Steve Ciobo has had initial discussions with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who is leading talks with countries who want to be exempt.
"We look forward to working through the process and finalising a positive outcome in the next two weeks," Mr Ciobo told AAP from Chile on Friday
The US will impose tariffs of 25 per cent on imported steel and 10 per cent on imported aluminium, which will take effect this month.
When the tariffs were announced Australia was not specifically exempted, but Mr Turnbull took heart from Mr Trump's words.
"He expressly acknowledged the points that we've made about the important relationship with Australia, the very strong friendship and of course the fact that America has a surplus in its trade with Australia," the prime minister told reporters.
"Whatever complaints the United States may have about other trading relationships, it has no complaints with respect to Australia."
Countries have 15 days before the tariffs become law to pursue an exemption.
Australia has been lobbying hard for an exemption based on national security grounds, as Mr Trump promised "great partners and military allies" may sidestep the tariffs.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australian golfer Greg Norman wrote a letter to the president lobbying for Australia to be exempt.
"We're calling in all contacts at every level," she told ABC Radio.
Asked if the issue was a litmus test for the Australia-US alliance Ms Bishop said: "No, I wouldn't put it in that context. We've had trade issues with the United States before."
Not all US allies appear likely to avoid the tariffs.
Mr Trump on Thursday called out Germany and other NATO nations for not spending enough on their military.
While Mr Trump has promised to be flexible on tariff negotiations, fears of a global trade war remain.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was confident the government was doing everything it can to get the steel tariff exemption, and believed it would be successful.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox said an exemption would be a "partial victory" as it would only apply to shipments coming directly out of the country, and not to those from Australian companies in third markets.
Australian Associated Press