Trump given options for steep United States import curbs on steel, aluminum

Trump Administration Recommends Stiff Penalties on Steel and Aluminum Imports

The Commerce Department on Friday recommended setting strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum, saying action is needed to shore up US industries vital to national security.

On Friday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reported that steel is in fact important to US national security and current import flows are adversely impacting the steel industry.

"On an average month, China produces almost as much steel as the US does in a year". More than two dozen USA steel and steel-related companies and associations wrote Trump a letter on February 2 urging "strong action" to support domestic steel. Stepped-up foreign production of steel and aluminum, especially by China, has driven down prices and hurt American producers.

The Administration is reportedly nearing a decision on whether or not to restrict steel and aluminum imports under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962.

What the Commerce Department found is that the United States is the largest importer of steel in the world.

The import restrictions are created to ensure that American steel and aluminum plants operate at 80 percent of capacity, which the department considers necessary to ensure long-term viability. He said, for example, that only one USA company now produces a high-quality aluminum alloy needed for military aircraft. The president could also consider the countries' willingness to work with the United States to address global excess capacity and other challenges facing the US aluminum and steel industries.

Employment in the steel industry has declined by 35 percent since 1998.

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Senator Pat Toomey cautioned the president to proceed cautiously under Section 232 for national security reasons, arguing that US defense needs account for only about 3 percent of domestic steel consumption. Any exclusions granted could result in changed tariffs or quotas for the remaining products to maintain the overall effect.

What he decides to do holds major consequences for Canada - the biggest supplier of both steel and aluminum south of the border.

Trump was presented with reports last month following parallel "Section 232" investigations into whether import restrictions on steel and aluminum are needed to protect national security. "Infrastructure, which is necessary for our economic security, is a major use of aluminum".

Aluminum imports have risen to 90% of total demand for primary aluminum, up from 66% in 2012.

Commerce noted that as of Thursday, the United States had two antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place on aluminum, both against China, and there are four ongoing investigations against China.

"The ultimate decision rests with the president, the commerce secretary cautioned: "(Trump) will decide what he's going to do... Ross also suggested a 23.5% tariff on aluminum products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam.

One would see the USA impose a 24 per cent tariff on steel imports from everywhere - Canada included.


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