ShareThis Page

President Donald Trump orders probe into whether steel imports threaten security

| Thursday, April 20, 2017, 8:42 p.m.
President Donald Trump hands United Steel Workers International President Leo W. Gerard the pen he used to sign an executive memorandum on investigation of steel imports, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is second from left. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump talks about an executive memorandum on investigation of steel imports that he was about to sign, Thursday, April 20, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — President Trump directed his administration Thursday to expedite a just-launched investigation into whether steel imports are jeopardizing national security, saying, “This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on other countries.”

Executives from U.S. 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. Trump said that could be as soon as 30 to 50 days.

Trump promised as a candidate to revitalize the American steel industry, the decline of which has been especially hard on states such as Pennsylvania that were crucial to his victory. The president said maintaining steel production is critical to U.S. security interests because it is needed to build airplanes, ships and other machinery, along with roads, bridges and other infrastructure. The American steel industry argues that if the United States is dependent on imported steel, it could be vulnerable if relations break down with nations that export it.

U.S. prominence in the industry has been slipping for decades. American-made steel once accounted for about 20 percent of global production, but had slipped to less than 5 percent by 2015, according to the Belgium-based World Steel Association. China made up less than 3 percent of U.S. steel imports.

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

“From now on, we're going to stand up for American jobs, workers and their security, and for American steel companies and companies in general,” Trump said. “Today's action is the next vital step toward making America strong and prosperous once again.”

In 2001, the Commerce Department found no evidence of a threat after it examined potential national security risks from importing semi-finished steel.

What has changed since 2001 is that China now accounts for half of steel production, such that excess output by Chinese factories — regardless of imports to the United States — can dampen prices for U.S. steelmakers.

Asked whether the move would affect his dealings with China over North Korea, Trump said: “This has nothing to do with China. This has to do with worldwide, what's happening. The dumping problem is a worldwide problem.”

A 1962 trade law that gives the president authority to restrict imports and impose tariffs if they are determined to harming security interests outlines 270 days for such investigations.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.