Commerce Dept. backs tariffs on imported aluminum and steel

China vows to protect interests as US eyes trade sanctions

In his report to the president, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Friday recommended imposing tariffs on imports from a number of countries.

As for steel, Ross recommended that Trump consider three options, one of which is a global tariff of at least 24 percent on all imports. "I look forward to his decision on any potential course of action".

Trump has until April 11 to accept or reject Ross's recommendations, and you can expect the mother of all internal lobbying fights over the issue between now and then.

Among its key findings, the report found that the United States is the world's largest importer of steel - with imports almost four times greater than its exports.

The recent global excess capacity is 700 million tons, nearly 7 times the annual total of USA steel consumption.

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A quota on all steel products from all countries equal to 63% of each country's 2017 exports to the United States. The recommendations are part of an investigation into the impact of the oversupply of steel and aluminum and whether the current glut undermines USA national security.

The authority for this proposed action is Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which was meant to address "dumping" of products through pricing created to penetrate USA markets. Due to that threat, Ross recommended the president reduce imports through quotas or tariffs.

Each of these remedies is meant 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.

But Commerce said the goal of the measures is to boost domestic aluminium and steel production.

For aluminum, he recommended either a 7.7 per cent tariffs on the metal from all countries; a quota for all countries; or, perhaps the most shocking of all the options, a 23.6 per cent tariffs on imports of all products from China, Russia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Venezuela. "For certain types of steel, such as for electrical transformers, only one USA producer remains", the release stated. The first involves a global tariff of at least 7.7 percent on all aluminum imports, and another is a quota on all imports from all countries equal to a maximum of 86.7 percent of their 2017 exports to the United States. USA steel plants are running at 73 percent of capacity and aluminum plants at 48 percent.

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