Alexandria, VA. June 27, 2018. Steel imports fell by nearly a quarter from April to May as the Trump administration’s steel tariffs began to take effect.
Imports fell 23.2 percent month-to-month to 2.89 million net tons, which was almost 16 percent lower than in May 2017. South Korea – one of the few countries with whom the United States has reached an agreement to limit steel imports in order to avoid tariffs – recorded a decline of more than three-fourths from the preceding month and two-thirds from the previous May to 110,000 net tons, while imports from Russia fell by similar percentages to 114,000 net tons, and imports from Brazil decreased by more than a quarter from April and by nearly half from May of last year to 293,000 net tons. The European Union was exempted from the tariffs until June 1, and the 585,000 net tons of imports from that region showed growth of more than 22 percent on both a monthly and an annual basis. Canada and Mexico were also exempted until June 1, but, while imports from Canada were largely unchanged from April at 710,000 net tons, imports from Mexico fell by 7 percent to 364,000 net tons. Both totals, though, were around one-fourth higher than in May 2017, in part because of strong growth from March to April in anticipation of the tariffs taking effect.
Through the first five months of the year, imports were down 2.5 percent at 15.34 million net tons. Imports from Canada increased 16.8 percent to 3.15 million net tons and imports from the European Union grew by 12.7 percent to 2.2 million net tons, but imports from Brazil fell 12.3 percent to 1.8 million net tons. Imports from South Korea were largely unchanged at 1.53 million net tons, while imports from Mexico increased 18.4 percent to 1.7 million net tons.
The administration will probably celebrate the May data, but businesses and consumers will not. Adding 25 percent to the cost of nearly every ton of steel that is brought into the country is a shortsighted tactic that will do long-term harm to the U.S. economy. That is why the American Institute for International Steel is going to court to challenge the tariffs and the faulty national security rationale that is being used to justify them. This administration may be unwilling to listen to economic arguments, but it will not be able to ignore legal ones.