Trump orders probe which could lead to curbs on Chinese steel imports
US President Donald Trump has ordered a comprehensive investigation of steel imports that could result in broad restrictions on imports of steel from China.
The investigation will determine the extent to which Chinese steel imports have undercut the ability of domestic producers to meet increasing demand from US military equipment manufacturers, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters in Washington DC.
The domestic steel industry is running at 71 per cent of capacity while foreign imports account for 26 per cent of the domestic steel market, Ross said.
Li Hongmei, a Singapore-based steel sector analyst at S&P Global Platts, said official data showed that the US is by no means a core export destination for China’s steel, with yearly export volume being no more than a couple of million tonnes to the US, compared with China’s total 2016 steel export amounted to 108 million tonnes .
In a blog (thehill.com), Joe Innace, content director of metals, Americas for energy and commodities information provider S&P Global Platts,
said “it’s just impossible to avoid buying foreign steel because certain products and grades are not produced in the US, or supply is limited.”
He cited the example that in 2009, when the US military was involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defence gave steel plates finished in the US from imported semi-finished products the same status as those fully produced in the US.
The American steel industry is a focus of Trump’s efforts to revive employment undercut by globalization, a campaign promise that he’s continued to pursue since taking office in November.
“Dumping is a tremendous problem in this country,” Trump said later on Thursday in a signing ceremony, without mentioning China. “They’re dumping vast amounts of steel in our country, and they’re really hurting not only our country, but our companies.”
Trump said shortly after taking office in February that his first budget includes “an historic increase in defence spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time when we most need it.”
The numbers reflect the priority the US president places on a military-ready domestic steel industry.
Military spending, one of only three categories to see an increase in Trump’s proposed budget, is slated to rise 10 per cent to US$574 billion.
Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs also saw increases, while 14 other agencies – including the Environmental Protection Agency – were cut.
The investigation into steel imports “could result in a recommendation to take action on all steel imports”, Ross told reporters on Thursday.
No decision has yet been made on which steel products will be targeted in the investigation, and to what extent, said the Commerce Secretary.
Restrictions will be determined sometime within the 270-day investigation time frame.