24 February 2019
US President Donald Trump holds a meeting on trade with members of Congress at the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump holds a meeting on trade with members of Congress at the White House on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Trump mulls tariffs, quotas on foreign steel, aluminum

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he is weighing a range of options, including tariffs and quotas, to address steel and aluminum imports that he said were unfairly hurting US producers. 

During a meeting at the White House with a group of US lawmakers, Trump delivered a strong signal that he will take some action to protect the domestic steel and aluminum industry.

“What we’re talking about is tariffs and/or quotas,” Trump told the group, according to Reuters.

“Part of the options would be tariffs coming in. As they dump steel, they pay tariffs, substantial tariffs, which means the United States would actually make a lot of money.”

Mentioning the empty steel mills he saw on the election campaign trail in 2016, Trump said that the American steel and aluminum industries were being “decimated by dumping”.

“I look at it two ways: I want to keep prices down, but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminum industry, and we do need that for national defense,” he said.

Trump now has until around April 11 to decide whether to impose steel import curbs and April 20 to decide on aluminum restrictions, according to the Reuters report.

Trump is weighing options presented last month by the US Commerce Department in “Section 232” investigations into whether import restrictions on steel and aluminum are needed to protect national security.

The probes were authorized under a 1962 trade law that has not been invoked since 2001.

At the Tuesday meeting, some of the lawmakers urged him to act decisively to save steel and aluminum plants in their states, but others urged caution because higher prices would hurt downstream manufacturers that consume steel and aluminum, Reuters said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is said to have told the lawmakers that Section 232 powers “can be applied in a much more surgical way” that could lead to tariffs on imports from certain countries and quotas from other nations suspected of transshipping products.

Trump’s comments Tuesday came after US steelmakers recently urged him to take broad action to reduce steel imports to curb global excess production capacity, largely in China.

A Chinese government think-tank warned earlier that “unreasonable” US trade actions on steel will be met with “countermeasures” under World Trade Organization rules.

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