Trump given options for steep USA import curbs on steel, aluminum

US proposes hefty import curbs on steel aluminum

The change comes amid heightened tensions between Europe and the USA over the possibility of a trade dispute, with Washington threatening to restrict American purchases of foreign steel and aluminum on national-security grounds. Any exclusions granted could result in changed tariffs or quotas for the remaining products to maintain the overall effect.

Trump met a bipartisan group of United States senators and representatives at the White House last week, signalling he would take at least some action to restrict imports of the two metals.

American steel stocks spiked on Friday immediately after the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross proposed actions aimed at reviving the beleaguered steel industry. Trump take action based on the recommendations he receives, or he may opt not to take any action.

The European Union's trade surplus with the U.S. widened by 6.8 percent over the past year despite threats of a trade war from U.S. President Donald Trump, who has branded the relationship between the two regions as unfair.

President Trump and several Cabinet members hosted a meeting with congressional Republicans and Democrats on February 13, 2018 at the White House to discuss possible trade remedies in the Section 232 steel and aluminum investigations. The third alternative was a quota on all imports from all countries of up to 86.7 percent of their 2017 exports to the United States. He could use tariffs or specifically target companies.

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Commerce said that it designed the remedies to raise US capacity utilization to about 80 percent for each industry, from the current 48 percent in aluminum and 76 percent in steel.

The United States imports large amounts of steel and aluminum from China and other countries.

But economists have raised concerns that such tariffs could backfire, lead other countries to slap new restrictions on USA exports, and in the worst case result in a trade war. Aluminum prices climbed almost 2% on the news. China is by far the largest producer and exporter of steel, and the largest source of excess steel capacity. And only one company in the country produces the high-quality aluminum alloy used for military aerospace purposes.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., warned that import restrictions could also drive up prices for US businesses that use steel and aluminum as well as for American consumers.

The Aluminum Association Friday separately said while Commerce said job loss in the primary aluminum sector was 58% between 2013 and 2016, the total industry saw a slight increase in jobs during that period. Ross also suggested a 23.5% tariff on aluminum products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam. All others would be subject to quotas equal to their 2017 exports to the United States.

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