Trump: 'Unfair trade' in steel, aluminum decimating US industry


Washington (AFP)

US President Donald Trump lashed out Thursday at "unfair trade" as he weighs whether to impose tariffs or quotas on cheap steel and aluminum imports that he said are decimating US producers.

Trump did not single out any country in a tweet but his words came with the White House poised to announce whether it will adopt sanctions against China, Russia and other countries to combat a worldwide glut of the metals.

US steel and aluminum executives have been summoned on short notice to meet with Trump, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"Our Steel and Aluminum industries (and many others) have been decimated by decades of unfair trade and bad policy with countries from around the world," Trump tweeted early Thursday.

"We must not let our country, companies and workers be taken advantage of any longer. We want free, fair and SMART TRADE!"

And while Trump did not mention China in this latest tweet, it comes on a day one of his top economic advisers, Gary Cohn, is due to meet with Chinese economic adviser Liu He at the White House.

The Commerce Department, in its investigations into the national security risks of the global oversupply of steel and aluminum, laid out an array of possible options, including a tariff of at least 24 percent on all steel imports worldwide, and a similar tariff on aluminum imports from China, Russia and three other countries.

Other options would impose either high tariffs or quotas on steel and aluminum imports.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross found that cheap imports impaired US national security by making domestic production unviable.

Trump has until mid-April to decide what remedies to impose, if any, but any US action is likely to be challenged by exporting nations in the World Trade Organization.

US industries have urged the administration to exercise care since high import tariffs would raise the cost of supplies. But Commerce said the goal of the measures was to boost domestic aluminum and steel production.

The administration of former President Barack Obama also sought to tackle long-standing concerns about Chinese overproduction, but emphasized talks with Beijing rather than punitive measures.

The proposed sanctions could hurt other countries more than China, which is the world's largest steel producer but accounts for less than one percent of US imports and sells only 10 percent of its wrought aluminum abroad.