Of­fi­cials an­nounce probe into alu­minum

Is U.S. pay­ing a fair price in deals?

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY S.A. MILLER

Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross an­nounced Wednesday that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was launch­ing a new in­ves­ti­ga­tion into im­ported alu­minum, looking at the im­pact a flood of im­ports has on U.S. eco­nomic and de­fense se­cu­rity.

The probe, sim­i­lar to one ini­ti­ated last week into steel, will de­ter­mine whether sub­si­dies or other un­fair prac­tices in coun­tries such as China jus­tify im­pos­ing coun­ter­vail­ing du­ties or other mea­sure to pro­tect U.S. in­dus­tries.

“Im­ports have been flood­ing in to the alu­minum in­dus­try,” Mr. Ross said.

The Com­merce Depart­ment has 270 days to com­plete the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and make a rec­om­men­da­tion to the pres­i­dent. But Mr. Ross said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion likely would be com­pleted be­fore the dead­line.

The probe by the Com­merce Depart­ment, known as a Sec­tion 232 in­ves­ti­ga­tion, is part of a se­ries of get-tough moves on trade. The Trump ad­min­is­trant also is ex­pected to soon take steps to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Mr. Ross wouldn’t con­firm a time­line for tack­ling NAFTA but said the alu­minum in­ves­ti­ga­tion and other moves stemmed from Mr. Trump’s cam­paign prom­ises to crack down on bad trade deals.

“The pres­i­dent said he was go­ing to be tougher on trade,” said Mr. Ross. “This fol­lows quite log­i­cally with him fol­low­ing though on his cam­paign prom­ises.”

Alu­minum im­ports have a di­rect im­pact on the U.S. mil­i­tary.

Mr. Ross noted that high-qual­ity alu­minum is used in the F-35 and F-18 fight­ers, C-17 trans­port air­craft, and in ar­mor plat­ing for a va­ri­ety of mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles, ves­sels and mis­siles.

“The prob­lem we have is there is only one Amer­i­can smelter that pro­duces the high-pu­rity alu­minum needed for these uses. Just one,” he said. “Even worse, eight U.S. smelters have either closed or curbed pro­duc­tion since 2015. There are only two U.S. smelters fully op­er­a­tional as we stand here to­day.”

A glut in global alu­minum sup­ply, some of it driven by coun­tries that sub­si­dize pro­duc­tion, has driven down prices and U.S. pro­duc­ers claim they have been un­fairly un­der­cut.

U.S. alu­minum out­put has dropped to 1955 lev­els, said Mr. Ross.

He said that China was a ma­jor play­ing in alu­minum but over­sup­ply was a global prob­lem.

Ross

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