May 27, 2017

Trump Orders Probe Into Whether Steel Imports Harming US

21 April 2017, 12:41 | Melvin Schneider

Our Views: A federal investigation that bodes well for the Range

U.S. President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room at the White House

President Trump on Thursday ordered an investigation into whether foreign steel is hurting national security.

Executives from USA steelmakers, who support the review, stood behind Trump as he signed a memo directing Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to return recommendations in the "very, very near" future.

President Trump described it as "a historic day for American steel and most importantly for American steel workers". But Trump, who ran for president on a promise to restore jobs in these kinds of hard-hit industries, has vowed to require that when major new energy and infrastructure projects launch in the United States, they will be made with American steel.

"A strong steel industry is at the foundation of America's economic and national security", U.S. Steel Corp. said Thursday, welcoming the administration's effort. U.S. Steel and other American steel producers have traditionally filed cases with the commission under anti-dumping laws that bar sale of goods priced at less than fair value or that are subsidized by foreign governments.

Mr. Newport and leaders of other steel companies in America joined President Trump at the White House today for the Administration's announcement. United Steel Workers International President Leo W. Gerard, left, looks at the pen that was used to sign the document.

US prominence in the steel industry has been slipping for decades. American-made steel once accounted for roughly 20 percent of global production, but had slipped to less than 5 percent by 2015, according to the Belgium-based World Steel Association.

During the signing, Trump was asked how the policy would affect USA dealings with China on North Korea, to which he responded: "This has nothing to do with China".

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Trump couched the investigation as part of action he took earlier in the week to enforce existing "Buy American" laws.

Still, when a reporter asked Trump whether the investigation would raise tensions with China as he seeks that country's help in slowing North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, Trump said the trade investigation "has nothing to do with China" and addresses "a worldwide problem".

In 2001, Commerce investigated the impact of iron ore and semifinished steel imports under Section 232, but ultimately recommended no action.

Mr Trump, however, denied that the order was singling out China, whose aid the U.S. is hoping to enlist in confronting North Korea. "This has to do with worldwide, what's happening. The problem with those anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases is they're very, very limited in nature to a very, very specific product from a very, very specific country", he said without naming any country.

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

A Section 232 investigation under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 tasks the Secretary of Commerce with preparing a report on "whether the importation of the article in question is in such quantities or under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security", according to the website of the Bureau of Industry and Security, which is an agency within the Commerce Department.

At an Oval Office ceremony where he was surrounded by US steel executives, Trump signed a memorandum ordering the Commerce Department to conduct a speedy probe into the impact of steel imports on the USA defense industrial base at a time when he is ordering new ships, planes and tanks to be built.

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