Protecting US manufacturing from the onslaught of imports was among the key topics of President Trump’s election campaign. The President has followed up on his pre-election pitch and ordered a Section 232 probe into imports of steel and aluminum. The probe could help determine whether imports threaten US national security and give the president powers to impose duties on imports.
The steel probe has been in the news recently. According to Axios, Donald Trump is “hell-bent” on imposing tariffs on steel imports despite opposition from the majority of officials. However, we haven’t heard much about the aluminum probe yet. One possible reason could be that the US steel industry (X)(AKS) has been quite vocal about the menace of cheap imports hurting their businesses. While aluminum producers have also been complaining against imports, their ire has mainly been directed against China. Over the last few years, higher Chinese aluminum exports amid rising domestic production have pressured global aluminum markets.
Canada accounts for the biggest chunk of US aluminum imports (AA). Notably, some companies—like Rio Tinto (RIO)—have set up plants in Canada. Also, Europe is among the leading aluminum exporters to the United States, with companies like Century Aluminum (CENX) having plants in Iceland.
However, the aluminum associations of Europe, the United States, and Canada are interlinked and see Chinese overcapacity as the biggest concern. The solution to the aluminum industry’s woes might have to addressed on an international level, taking along major producers—especially China. However, the Trump administration could have different plans while probing imports under Section 232. Once the president is done with steel, aluminum could be next on the radar.
You can visit our Aluminum page for ongoing updates on the aluminum industry.