Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross released today the Section 232 reports prepared by the Commerce Department and submitted to President Trump last month on the national security impact of U.S. imports of steel mill products and of wrought and unwrought aluminum. As expected, Commerce found that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security.” The reports remain under consideration by the president. He is required to make a decision on the steel recommendations by April 11, 2018, and on the aluminum recommendations by April 19, 2018. The president can take a range of actions or no action, based on the analyses and recommendations provided in these reports.

In summary, the reports recommend:

  • Aluminum: (1) a tariff of at least 7.7% on all aluminum exports from all countries; (2) a 23.5% tariff on all products from China, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam, with all other countries 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.
  • Steel: (1) a global tariff of at least 24% on all imports; (2) a tariff of at least 53% tariff on imports from Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, with all other countries subject to quotas by product on imports 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.

Key Findings of the Steel Report:

  • The United States is the world’s largest importer of steel. Imports are nearly four times exports.
  • Six basic oxygen furnaces and four electric furnaces have closed since 2000, and employment has dropped by 35% since 1998.
  • World steelmaking capacity is 2.4 billion metric tons, up 127% from 2000, while steel demand grew at a slower rate.
  • Recent global excess capacity is 700 million tons, almost seven times the annual total of U.S. steel consumption. China is by far the largest producer and exporter of steel and the largest source of excess steel capacity. China’s excess capacity alone exceeds total U.S. steel-making capacity.
  • In an average month, China produces nearly as much steel as the United States does in a year. For certain types of steel, such as for electrical transformers, only one U.S. producer remains.
  • As of February 15, 2018, the United States had 169 antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place on steel, of which 29 are against China, and there are 25 ongoing investigations.

Key Findings of the Aluminum Report:

  • Aluminum imports have increased to 90% of total demand for primary aluminum, up from 66% in 2012.
  • From 2013 to 2016 aluminum industry employment fell by 58%, six smelters shut down, and only two of the remaining five smelters are operating at capacity, even though demand has grown considerably.
  • 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. For example, there is only one remaining U.S. producer of the high-quality aluminum alloy needed for military aerospace. Infrastructure, which is necessary for our economic security, is a major use of aluminum.
  • The Department of Commerce recently brought trade cases to try to address the dumping of aluminum. As of February 15, 2018, the United States had two antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place on aluminum, both against China, and there are four ongoing investigations against China.

The tariffs and quotas recommended would be in addition to any duties already in place. The reports recommend that a process be put in place to allow the secretary of Commerce to grant requests from U.S. companies to exclude specific products if the United States 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.