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White House Holds Meeting to Discuss Aluminum and Steel Trade Actions
17 February 2018, 12:45 | Lorenzo Hawkins
"It is disheartening that Secretary Ross did not recommend to President Trump excluding primary aluminum and cansheet from tariffs and other import restrictions in the Department of Commerce's 232 report".
"I am glad that we were able to provide this analysis and these recommendations to the president", Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.
Ford sources 98 percent of the aluminum and 95 percent of the steel used for its domestic vehicle production from suppliers in the U.S. GM uses American steel and aluminum for "a vast majority" of its production, Tom Henderson, a spokesman, said in an email.
Another option will be tariffs of at least 53% on steel imports from Brazil, China, Costa Rica, India, Russia, Egypt, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam.
The president has until April 19 to decide whether to adopt one of three options, to modify an option or not to act on the 232 recommendations. "And part of the options would be tariffs coming in", Trump said.
Some steel stocks were stronger in morning trade. However, he says he won't be revealing the President's decision on retaliatory tariffs.
He also said that the prices of both aluminum and steel have "varied greatly in recent years", and that auto production has remained "very, very high" even when aluminum and steel prices were up "quite a bit from their lows". Trump take action based on the recommendations he receives, or he may opt not to take any action.
But economists have raised concerns that such tariffs could backfire, lead other countries to slap new restrictions on U.S. exports, and in the worst case result in a trade war. More than two dozen US steel and steel-related companies and associations wrote Trump a letter on February 2 urging "strong action" to support domestic steel. "Other countries will retaliate, killing the very exports and American jobs this administration seeks to promote".
Ross said each of the measures should enable US steel producers to operate at 80% average capacity utilization rates or better based on available capacity in 2017.
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.
At today's reduced military spending, military consumption of aluminum is a small percentage of total consumption and therefore is insufficient by itself to preserve the viability of the smelters. Employment in the steel industry has declined by 35 percent since 1998. U.S. Steel and AK Steel spiked 10%, while Alcoa rallied 3% and Century Aluminum climbed 7%.
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