(WASHINGTON) The U.S. Commerce Department has recommended that President Donald Trump impose steep curbs on steel and aluminum imports from China and other countries ranging from global and country-specific tariffs to broad import quotas, according to proposals released on Friday.
China’s Commerce Ministry responded by saying the report was “baseless” and did not accord with the facts, and that China would take necessary steps to protects its interests if the final decision affects China.
The long-awaited unveiling of Commerce’s “Section 232” national security reviews of the two industries contained global tariff options of at least 24 percent on all steel products from all countries, and at least 7.7 percent on all aluminum products from all countries.
Trump authorized the probes under a 1962 trade law that has not been invoked since 2001. He has until April 11 to announce his decision on steel import curbs and by April 20 to decide on aluminum restrictions.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross emphasized that Trump would have the final say, including on whether to exclude certain countries, such as NATO allies, from any actions.
“The president has the discretion to modify any of these or to come with something totally different,” he told reporters on a conference call.
He said a global tariff would cover every steel and aluminum product entering the American market from China.
China’s Commerce Ministry urged the United States to exercise restraint in using trade protection tools, respect the rules of multilateral trade and make a positive contribution to the international economic and trading order.
“If the final U.S. decision affects China’s interests, China must take necessary measures to protect its own reasonable interests,” the ministry added, without giving details.
Steel stocks soared with U.S. Steel closing up 14.7 percent, AK Steel up 13.7 percent, Nucor ended up 4.5 percent and the broader S&P 1500 steel index 5.3 percent higher.
Century Aluminum shares closed up 8.3 percent, while Alcoa, which has operations across the globe, ended off 0.44 percent.
Alcoa said in a statement the U.S. trade actions should focus on Chinese overcapacity and not penalize nations that abide by the rules.
Ross said he would not be surprised if countries challenged the measures at the World Trade Organization.
He said “there has been no dialing back” of the recommendations due to objections from industries that use steel and aluminum.
“The objective of both reports is to get the production up to a level which will result, in our judgment, in the long term viability of each industry,” Ross said, adding that he did not believe that the recommendations would lead to significant price hikes.
U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he hoped the proposals “are the beginning of efforts by this administration to finally get tough on China.”