Alexandria, VA. March 27, 2018. Monthly steel imports plummeted more than 18 percent to 2.36 million net tons in February.
The decline continued a downward trend, with February’s imports more than 13 percent below February 2017 shipments.
Imports from Canada totaled 499,000 net tons, 10.5 percent less than in January, but 2.3 percent more than the previous February, while imports from the European Union climbed almost 9 percent to 377,000 net tons, a two-thirds increase from a year earlier. Imports from South Korea, Brazil and Mexico came in at 277,000 net tons, 238,000 net tons and 225,000 net tons, respectively, marking decreases from January of 18.4 percent, 36.4 percent and 32.5 percent. Imports from South Korea were up 5.6 percent compared to February of last year, while imports from Brazil and Mexico were down 37 percent and 14.2 percent.
Through the first two months of the year, aggregate imports decreased 5.4 percent to 5.24 million net tons. Canada accounted for the most imports – 1.06 million net tons, 3.7 percent more than in 2017 – followed by the European Union at 722,000 net tons, almost 40 percent more than last year. Year-to-date imports from South Korea totaled 615,000 net tons, a 7.3 percent increase, imports from Brazil 609,000 net tons, a nearly 10 percent decrease, and imports from Mexico 558,000 net tons, an 8.3 percent increase.
Semifinished imports decreased by nearly a third from February 2017 to 439,000 net tons. The total for January and February of 987,000 net tons was 12.3 percent lower than the first two months of last year.
The 25 percent tariffs that the Trump administration is imposing on nearly all steel imports will surely drive these numbers down even more, leaving businesses and consumers to pay higher prices to subsidize the domestic steel industry. And the impact will be felt far beyond the steel sector. China has released a list of 128 American products on which it may impose tariffs in retaliation. One of the biggest Chinese targets is soybeans, with that country importing $14 billion worth of the foodstuff last year. Retaliating against American soybean shipments would have a devastating impact on our farm sector. Similarly, the potential tariff targets listed by the European Union take up 10 pages. Even a trade skirmish threatens to dampen economic growth, yet President Trump has tweeted that, “Trade wars are good, and easy to win.” If history is not sufficient to show him the error of that statement, the near future surely will be.