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Presidential memorandum prioritizes commerce steel investigation

April 20, 2017 - Today, President Donald J. Trump signed a presidential memorandum calling on Secretary Wilbur Ross to prioritize a Department of Commerce investigation initiated last night into the effects of steel imports on US national security. The study will consider production and capacity, workforce, investment, research and development, and other factors, to determine whether steel imports threaten American security. 

“We are going to fight for American workers and American-made steel by conducting a thorough investigation into steel imports,” said President Trump. “Thanks especially to Secretary Wilbur Ross for helping lead this critical effort.”

After a thorough investigation, if any national security threats from steel imports are identified, Secretary Ross will provide a report that includes recommendations for next steps. Under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, the President has broad power to adjust imports—including through the use of tariffs and quotas—if excessive foreign imports are found to be a threat to US national security.

“We will conduct this investigation thoroughly and expeditiously so that, if necessary, we can take actions to defend American national security, workers, and businesses against foreign threats,” said Secretary Ross. “This investigation will help determine whether steel import issues are making us less safe in a world that is increasingly fraught with geopolitical tensions.”

The United States is relatively unusual in that it has no tariffs on steel but has had to impose antidumping or countervailing duties in 152 cases, with 25 more currently pending.

Steel is used for critical infrastructure throughout the United States and is a basic building block of our modern economy. Continued production of steel is essential to maintain the skills base and research and development of new steel products. Our military uses specialty steel alloys that require unusual production skills for armor, ships and aircraft.  A robust and healthy domestic steel production industry is necessary  for national security.

The US steel industry has struggled in recent years, raising concerns about the industry’s ability to support national security needs.  Industry employment has been declining, companies are highly leveraged, and businesses remain both capital intensive and lacking strong cash flow.  Imports now represent 26 percent of the market and the US steel mills and foundries are operating at just 71 percent of capacity. 

The investigation will include a formal request for public comment to be published in the Federal Register, followed by a public hearing.

[h/t Department of Commerce]

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