Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Completes Section 232 Steel and Aluminum Reports – Recommends Tariffs…


Last year President Donald Trump requested a national security Section 232 trade-investigation, to conducted by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Secretary Wilbur Ross, specifically focusing on U.S. steel and aluminum manufacturing.

The discussion continued last week as President Trump met with a group of republican and democrat members of congress to talk about trade policy and focus attention on the lack of American steel and aluminum production.   [The responses from the republican participants was very enlightening and disappointing.]

On Friday Commerce Secretary completed the industrial review and provided President Trump with trade recommendations to consider given the nature of the national security compromise.   See Outline Here.

Recommendations of the Steel Report:  Secretary Ross has recommended to the President that he consider the following alternative remedies to address the problem of steel imports:

  1. A global tariff of at least 24% on all steel imports from all countries, or
  2. A tariff of at least 53% on all steel imports from 12 countries (Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam) with a quota by product on steel imports from all other countries equal to 100% of their 2017 exports to the United States, or
  3. A quota on all steel products from all countries equal to 63% of each country’s 2017 exports to the United States.

Each of these remedies is intended to increase domestic steel production from its present 73% of capacity to approximately an 80% operating rate, the minimum rate needed for the long-term viability of the industry. Each remedy applies measures to all countries and all steel products to prevent circumvention.

The tariffs and quotas would be in addition to any duties already in place. The report recommends that a process be put in place to allow the Secretary to grant requests from U.S. companies to exclude specific products if the U.S. lacks sufficient domestic capacity or for national security considerations. Any exclusions granted could result in changed tariffs or quotas for the remaining products to maintain the overall effect.

[FULL REPORT pdf retracting national security issues]

Recommendations of the Aluminum Report:

Secretary Ross has recommended to President Trump three alternative remedies for dealing with the excessive imports of aluminum. These would cover both aluminum ingots and a wide variety of aluminum products.

  1. A tariff of at least 7.7% on all aluminum exports from all countries, or
  2. A tariff of 23.6% on all products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam. All the other countries would be subject to quotas equal to 100% of their 2017 exports to the United States, or
  3. A quota on all imports from all countries equal to a maximum of 86.7% of their 2017 exports to the United States.

Each of the three proposals is intended to raise production of aluminum from the present 48% average capacity to 80%, a level that would provide the industry with long-term viability. Each remedy applies measures to all countries and all steel products to prevent circumvention.

The tariffs and quotas would be in addition to any duties already in place. The report recommends that a process be put in place to allow the Secretary to grant requests from U.S. companies to exclude specific products if the U.S. lacks sufficient domestic capacity or for national security considerations. Any exclusions granted could result in changed tariffs or quotas for the remaining products to maintain the overall effect.

[FULL REPORT pdf with redacted national security issues]

The reports are currently under consideration by the President, and no final decisions have been made with regard to their contents. The President may take a range of actions, or no action, based on the analysis and recommendations provided in the reports. Action could include making modifications to the courses of action proposed, such as adjusting percentages.

The President is required to make a decision on the steel recommendations by April 11, 2018, and on the aluminum recommendations by April 19, 2018.  (Commerce Link)

Those who have followed the issue closely will note how China uses third-party nations as shipping ports in an attempt to hide their steel and aluminum dumping.  Therefore instead of playing the never ending game of whack-a-mole, Secretary Ross is taking the approach to identify “global” steel and aluminum imports.

Hopefully President Trump will accept and implement this approach shortly.

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