U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will reveal options for steel and aluminum tariffs on national security grounds at noon a.m. EST (1700 GMT) on Friday, the department said, the first insight into how the Trump administration may proceed to curb imports of the metals.
Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., warned that import restrictions could also drive up prices for USA businesses that use steel and aluminum as well as for American consumers.
"On an average month, China produces almost as much steel as the US does in a year". US steel plants are running at 73 percent of capacity and aluminum plants at 48 percent.
US President Donald Trump has threatened China with sanctions for trade imbalance and policies that are hurting the American industry, a move that could result in increasing chances of a trade war between two of the world's largest economies. Ross also suggested limiting imports of steel into the United States. "For certain types of steel, such as for electrical transformers, only one US producer remains", the release stated. The country's imports are almost four times the amount of exports, according to the report.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross emphasized that Trump would have the final say, including on whether to exempt certain countries, such as North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, from any actions.
Some lawmakers and steel and aluminium users have urged caution in any restrictions to avoid disruptions or price spikes in the raw materials, used in everything from autos to appliances and aircraft and construction.
The measures would be in addition to any duties now in place.
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From 2013 to 2016 aluminum industry employment fell by 58%, 6 smelters shut down, and only two of the remaining 5 smelters are operating at capacity, even though demand has grown considerably. "Our comments included non-exhaustive lists of steel and aluminum products that must be excluded from any import adjustments to keep our industry running smoothly. Not only do we now have a steel surplus with Canada, but we share a border and have synergistic strategic, economic, and national security interests". America now imports 90 percent of its primary aluminum.
The Commerce Department notes that no final decision has been made.
Commerce noted that as of Thursday, the USA had two antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place on aluminum, both against China, and there are four ongoing investigations against China.
A tariff of 23.6% on all products from China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam.
The options suggested include limiting all countries to steel exports equal to 63 per cent of their 2017 exports into the US, or a more severe quota for a smaller list of countries if Trump goes the more targeted route.
For aluminum, the secretary presented a similar array of three options.