The New York Daily News reported earlier this week that President Trump could sign an executive order directing the Commerce Department to investigate whether foreign aluminum imports harm national security.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a news conference that aluminum imports had climbed 16 percent in 2016, while production had declined.
"At the very same time that our military is needing more and more of the very high quality aluminum, we are producing less and less of everything and only have one producer of aerospace quality aluminum". "It is very, very risky to have one [high-quality] supplier of critical material" he noted.
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"Imports have been flooding in to the aluminum industry", said Ross, during a briefing with reporters, confirming the basis for an investigation that began on April 26.
Until the Trump administration opened the steel investigation last week, the USA had launched only two such investigations since the 1970s, and in each the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security declined to recommend action. The Commerce Department is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are dumping aluminium foil into the US market below cost and are benefiting from unfair subsidies.
Although he said China was a major contributor to the global excess capacity in aluminium production, he said imports from other countries, including Russian Federation, were also causing problems.
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Ross told reporters that the probe was prompted by the extreme competitive pressures that unfairly traded imports are putting on the USA aluminium industry, causing several domestic smelters to close or halt production in recent years.
Ross specifically pointed to Chinese overcapacity in their steel production and said the have quintupled their share of aluminum production since 2002. The U.S. share of the global market has dropped from a world-beating 16 percent in 2000 to less than 2 percent previous year.
Canada is the U.S.'s greatest source of high-grade aluminum, and experts say they are playing by the rules.
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Ross said the latest action, like several other trade actions Trump has taken in recent weeks, were aimed at following through on promises he made during the campaign, when he promised action on trade.