Published: Fri, April 21, 2017
Economy | By Annette Adams

Trump's investigation could lead to sweeping tariffs on steel imports (Source: Getty)

Trump's investigation could lead to sweeping tariffs on steel imports (Source: Getty)

"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.

Taking aim at China, Donald Trump's administration has launched an investigation into whether foreign-made steel poses a threat to United States national security.

Trump earlier this year said he would require new or expanded pipelines to use American steel.

But Trump said that the investigation could expedited and completed within 50 days. "Maintaining the production of American steel is extremely important to our national security and our defense industrial base", he said.

Mr Trump, however, denied that the order was singling out China, whose aid the United States is hoping to enlist in confronting North Korea.

Wider duties on imports could encourage USA producers to further drive up their prices, complicating another of Mr. Trump's campaign pledges: to support US manufacturers. "This has to do with worldwide, what's happening". Yet the Trump administration has expressed skepticism about the efficacy of the WTO and said it would consider going around the organization.

"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".

Ross was questioned on domestic mills' ability to meet USA steel demand if the recommended action from the Section 232 review restricted imports.

Trump highlighted issues around steel during his campaign, arguing that foreign countries were dumping vast amounts of steel into the United States, which he has said is eliminating jobs and hurting steel companies.

To do so, the Trump administration is using investigative powers granted to the office of the president by Section 232 (B) of the Trade Expansion Act.

Ross noted that steel imports are up almost 20% so far this year and that foreign steel now makes up more than a quarter of the entire USA market.

Chinese steel imports are up almost 20 percent in the early months of this year alone, he said.

Now Ross, who as an investor played a role in Cleveland steelmaking when he restructured LTV Steel and later sold its assets to ArcelorMittal, said he will determine whether there is a defense case to be made. Domestic producers increased prices further last year after new tariffs helped trim the share of imports in the US steel market in 2016 for the first time in three years.

During the presidential campaign, candidate Trump vowed that, if elected, he would use "every tool under American and worldwide law" to take on what he views as "unfair" trade tactics by other countries that he says hurt American workers.

A 1960s trade law gives the president authority to restrict imports if they are determined to be harmful to USA security interests.

U.S. steel mills have operated at an average capability utilization of 74.3% so far in 2017, according to American Iron and Steel Institute data released Monday.

"The artificially low prices caused by excess capacity and unfairly traded imports suppress profits in the American steel industry", the administration said in a statement.

In the briefing, Ross said this consideration would be weighed in the Commerce Department's ultimate report.

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