President Trump said today that he has decided to impose tariffs of 25 percent on all steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports, promising to sign the measures next week. Trade remedies for steel and aluminum were long overdue. Trump promised quick action after announcing investigations of the national security threats imposed by steel and aluminum imports nearly a year ago. Delays worsened the import crisis for thousands of U.S. steel and aluminum workers, many of whom are facing layoffs and plant closing announcements.
The crisis in steel and aluminum trade is driven by the development of massive amounts of excess production capacity, which has resulted in import dumping by China and a number of other countries singled out in the Commerce Department’s reports on its “section 232” investigations into the impact of imports of steel and aluminum products on national security. In its reports, which presented tariffs as one of three optional responses, the department found that unfair steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security.” In addition to China, other key countries identified in the Commerce reports included Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, and 6 others in steel; and Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela, and Vietnam in aluminum.
Now that the tariffs have been announced, the United States should work with other nations to develop coordinated responses to unfair trade in these products. This announcement should mark the beginning, rather than the end, of efforts to develop coordinated global responses to the problems of excess capacity in steel and aluminum trade.