U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will reveal options for steel and aluminum tariffs on national security grounds at noon a.m. EST (1700 GMT) on Friday, the department said, the first insight into how the Trump administration may proceed to curb imports of the metals.
If the president accepts any of the recommendations from the Commerce Department's report on aluminum imports, it will dramatically increase the cost of aluminum in the US and put at risk American jobs in the beer industry, as well other industries that are users of aluminum.
"The continued rising levels of imports of foreign steel threaten to impair the national security by placing the US steel industry at substantial risk of displacing the basic oxygen furnace and other steelmaking capacity", report stated.
"The DOC reports provide a comprehensive listing of the countries - Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam - that have relentlessly violated trade laws".
President Trump and several Cabinet members hosted a meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats on February 13, 2018 at the White House to discuss possible trade remedies in the Section 232 steel and aluminum investigations. He told those attending that quotas and tariffs are options on the table.
Steel stocks soared on the recommendations, with U.S. Steel up 9.7 percent, AK Steel up 9.9 percent and the broader S&P 1500 steel index up 4 percent.
Commerce said that it designed the remedies to raise USA capacity utilization to about 80 percent for each industry, from the current 48 percent in aluminum and 76 percent in steel. The alert by the European Commission also followed Trump's decision earlier in January to impose tariffs on US imports of solar panels and washing machines on the basis of rarely used "safeguard" rules.
The aluminum recommendations include a 7.7% tariff on imports from all exporter nations. Further, the industry creates $75 billion in direct economic impact and $186 billion in total impact, around 1 percent of U.S. GDP.
In a statement in response to the Commerce report, the group continued to stress that it believes any action should address Chinese overcapacity, not interfere with trading relationships between the United States and countries such as Canada and the European Union, and avoid unintended consequences for U.S. production and jobs, including for the downstream industry.
Senator Pat Toomey cautioned the president to proceed cautiously under Section 232 for national security reasons, arguing that USA defense needs account for only about 3 percent of domestic steel consumption.
The reports recommend that Ross be allowed to grant requests from US companies to exclude specific products if the USA lacks sufficient domestic capacity or for national security considerations.
"With more than 150 antidumping and countervailing duties on the books, steel is one of the most heavily protected domestic industries", Packard said. America now imports 90 percent of its primary aluminum.
From 2013 to 2016 aluminum industry employment fell by 58%, 6 smelters shut down, and only two of the remaining 5 smelters are operating at capacity, even though demand has grown considerably. And only one company in the country produces the high-quality aluminum alloy used for military aerospace purposes.
A quota on all imports from all countries equal to a maximum of 86.7% of their 2017 exports to the United States.
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