Trump orders investigation into aluminium imports a week after similar order on steel imports

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 April, 2017, 4:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 April, 2017, 5:00am

US President Donald Trump ordered his commerce secretary to prioritise an investigation that may lead to punitive tariffs on aluminium imports.

The executive order seeks to stop aluminium imports from undercutting US producers’ ability to meet demand from military equipment contractors, the same rationale used for an investigation into steel imports announced last week that could raise trade frictions with China.

Trump orders probe which could lead to curbs on Chinese steel imports

The order also aims to boost the need for workers in the domestic aluminium industry.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross “will make formal recommendations to the White House as to what to do about the problem and whether or not we do tariffs, taxes or something else to get our aluminium business going again,” Trump said during a signing ceremony in the White House.

“We cannot afford in these dangerous times to become dependant on foreign nations for the aluminium that our military relies on.”

US imports of semi-fabricated aluminium products from China increased 183 per cent in the three years ending on December 31, 2015 before plateauing in 2016, according to the Arlington, Virginia-based Aluminium Association, which lists Chinese imports of the lightweight metal as one of its top advocacy issues.

“The Aluminium Association, whose member companies represent the majority of aluminium production and fabrication in the United States, supports President Trump’s call for action to address unfair trade practises that are hurting US aluminium producers and fabricators,” according to a statement issued by the organisation.

In 2016, aluminium imports to the US rose 18 per cent on year while domestic production fell by 47 per cent in the same time frame, according to a White House statement released after the signing ceremony. Employment in the domestic aluminium industry fell by nearly 13 per cent annually in 2016, it said.