US Steelmakers Still Hope For Trump Action on Imports
US steel producers are still hoping the Trump administration will take action on its investigation of steel imports under Section 232 of the Trade Act.
In early April, the US Department of Commerce undertook an investigation of steel imports under Section 232 of the Trade Act, focusing on whether they represent a threat to national security. Later that month, President Donald Trump ordered the department to complete its report on an expedited timetable. By Trump’s standard, the department’s findings are now five months overdue.
“Nucor continues to believe significant work remains to be done to achieve free and fair trade for US manufacturers,” said Nucor CEO and Chairman John Ferriola during an earnings call with analysts and journalists. “More specifically, it’s time for comprehensive and broad-based remedies that address the illegal foreign trade practices that have materially weakened our nation’s economic vitality.”
Ferriola’s assessment came despite the fact that Nucor recently reported its highest year-to-date earnings since 2008.
Meanwhile, steel importers are pushing back against the notion that increases in steel imports mean that trade restrictions are needed. Recent Commerce Department numbers show steel imports spiked nearly 20 percent so far this year.
“It is actually a sign that the economy is growing,” said a report from the American Institute for International Steel, which represents importers. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported the US economy has recorded growth of at least three percent in back-to-back quarters for the first time in three years.
“Businesses need access to quality steel imports at global market prices in order to expand,” the AIIS report said, “and the protectionist measures that some say should be implemented to shield domestic manufacturers from foreign competition would disrupt the steel supply chain, drive up capital costs, and increase expenses downstream all the way to the consumer.”
The report added that trade restrictions that would also increase the cost of resources, “and trigger tit-for-tat retaliation leading to a trade war.” The report also noted that nearly 20 percent of all steel imports are imported into the US by domestic steel mills in the form of semi-finished products.