Section 232 tariffs on steel, aluminum ‘effective’: US Commerce Secretary

The Section 232 tariffs introduced on steel and aluminum imports by former President Donald Trump’s administration have been “effective,” newly appointed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said March 4, signaling there is likely to be little change in the near term.

Data has showed that the tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum, first introduced by Trump in March 2018, have been effective, Raimondo said in an interview with MSNBC. However, as President Joe Biden has stated in the past, the new administration will be doing a full review of the tariff program, she said.

“We are going to have a full review of all of these policies and decide what it makes sense to retain,” Raimondo said.

The administration will also be taking a tough approach to China’s anti-competitive trade behavior and will use a “whole of government” approach to address issues, including unfair trade practices related to metals, she said.

“[China] can’t just dump excessive amounts of cheap steel and aluminum into America,” she said. “There is no one thing, there in no one tool in our toolbox, but we have to recognize the magnitude of China’s behavior [and] the threat it imposes.”

Raimondo, who previously served as governor of Rhode Island, was sworn in to lead the US Department of Commerce March 3.

The American Iron and Steel Institute welcomed Raimondo’s confirmation March 2, noting her commitment to addressing the issues facing the US steel industry, including vigorously enforcing the US trade remedy laws and remaining aggressive in combating unfair trade practices by China and other trading partners.

“Strong enforcement of US trade laws is a top priority for American steelmakers, particularly as foreign government subsidies and other market-distorting policies and practices have resulted in significant global steel overcapacity — the impacts of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” AISI CEO Kevin Dempsey said in a statement. “A critical part of the response to the global steel overcapacity crisis must be the full enforcement of the Section 232 remedies on steel products, including action to ensure that the Section 232 exclusions process does not inadvertently allow exclusion of products that are made by domestic steel producers.”

— Justine Coyne