Alexandria, VA. September 28, 2017. Steel imports dipped 3.5 percent from July to August, though they were still nearly one-tenth higher than they were a year earlier.
The 3.35 million net tons of imports in August were led by 579,000 net tons from Brazil, which more than doubled the July total and were more than 70 percent higher than in August 2016. Imports from Canada totaled 525,000 net tons, about 13 percent higher than the previous month and 5 percent higher than the previous August, while imports from the European Union dropped more than 30 percent to 423,000 net tons, a 2 percent increase from August of last year. Imports from Russia increased 11 percent from July and nearly a third from August 2016 to 377,000 net tons, while imports from Mexico fell more than 14 percent on the month and almost seven percent from a year prior to 279,000 net tons.
Through the first eight months of the year, imports increased by more than one-fifth to 26.56 million net tons. Year-to-date imports from Canada increased more than 10 percent to 4.22 million net tons, imports from Brazil were up 22.5 percent to 3.58 million net tons and imports from the European Union jumped 17 percent to 3.55 million net tons. Imports from South Korea recorded a 3.1 percent decline to 2.63 million net tons, while imports from Mexico and Russia showed big gains, 22.4 percent to 2.36 million net tons for the former and 65.6 percent to 2.34 million net tons for the latter.
Semifinished imports increased almost 36 percent in August to 927,000 net tons. The year-to-date total of 6.15 million net tons was up almost 41 percent compared to the same time last year.
Despite the August decline in shipments, September brought a bit of good news for steel importers. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that targeting steel imports with protectionist policies is not, at least for now, an immediate top priority for the Trump administration. The Commerce Department has been conducting a Section 232 investigation of the impact of steel imports on national security and, while the agency was expected to complete its report in June, Ross now says that the administration will not make any decision regarding steel trade restrictions until after Congress takes up tax reform. While it is encouraging that Trump and his team are not pushing as hard for trade restrictions as they were a few months ago, Ross made it clear that they have not abandoned the issue, saying, “It’s not so much a question of backing away, it’s a question of timing.” This delay, though, provides a few extra weeks for AIIS and its members and allies to build on the free trade momentum that our efforts during the spring and summer have produced, and continue to make the case that steel imports strengthen both the economy and the security of the United States.