Trump asks for probe into imports of foreign-made steel

Susan Walsh  AP

Susan Walsh AP

The Trump administration on Thursday authorized a special investigation under the little-used 1962 Trade Expansion Act to consider emergency trade sanctions against foreign steelmakers on "national security" grounds.

"Everything they export is dumping", said Derek Scissors, Asia economist at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.

The White House isn't contemplating ending its steel imports to the U.S., Ross clarified, as Trump launched a probe Thursday on foreign infrastructure production.

Any moves by the Trump administration would be another example of the president's desire to protect old school, blue collar US industries, many of which have been laying off workers due to a combination of the effects of automation and globalization. "So we're groping here to see whether the facts warrant a more comprehensive solution that would deal with a very wide range of steel products and a very wide range of steel products".

Mr Trump has repeatedly singled out helping steel workers as a top industrial priority for his administration, and billionaire industrialist Mr Ross has lamented that unfair trade has hurt the United States industry.

Trump is to sign the memorandum related to section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 at a White House event that is expected to include leaders of some US steel companies.

"From now on, we're going to stand up for American jobs, workers and their security, and for American steel companies and companies in general", Trump said.

Despite China's pledge to reduce the country's annual steel capacity by as much as 150 million tons before 2020, the country remains the world's largest steel producer and accounts for nearly half of the globe's total steel production. This would be a very positive development for U.S. steel prices.

Indeed, simply glancing at Trump's track record of giving in to corporate demands makes it appear highly unlikely that the administration would force ETP to abide by its order regarding USA -made steel. Contracts for major Pentagon weapons programs typically are accompanied by stipulations that combat gear must be built using American steel.

But Trump said that the investigation could expedited and completed within 50 days.

A 1962 trade law that gives the president authority to restrict imports and impose tariffs if they are determined to harming USA security interests outlines 270 days for such investigations.

"But this investigation won't mean much to OH steel companies and steelworkers unless it is followed by tough action that addresses China's overcapacity and stops the flood of unfairly traded steel imports from coming into our market".

"For too long, China and other nations have been conducting economic warfare against the American steel industry by subsidizing their steel industries, distorting global markets, and dumping excess steel into the United States".

Ross said the US steel industry is only operating at 71 percent of capacity, and foreign imports represent 26 percent - adding there is clearly room for an increase in domestic production.

"For every steelworker, there are 60 workers in steel-using industries", said Lewis Leibowitz, a Washington attorney who has worked on trade cases involving steel in the past. Some types of specialized steel aren't made in the U.S.

He said over the years the U.S. had conducted 152 steel cases against improper imports of one type of steel or another.

"We are finally standing up for our workers and for our companies", he said to a crowd at a tool plant in Kenosha.

Trump, signing the memorandum, called this "historic day for American steel".

"Steel is a global industry", said Adam Green, an analyst for market consultant World Steel Dynamics.

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