In a meeting with a group of bipartisan legislators on Tuesday, U.S. president Donald Trump gave his clearest signal to date that increased impediments on aluminium imports are imminent, noting that the entire arsenal of trade tools, including “tariffs and/or quotas” are under consideration.
“I want to keep prices down, but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminum industry, and we do need that for national defense. If we ever have a conflict, we don’t want to be buying the steel from a country that we’re fighting, because somehow that doesn’t work very well.”
Trump, who has until mid-April to decide upon a course of action, has a wide array of weapons at his disposal under Section 232. The investigation, which his administration initiated mere months after coming to power last year, found that the continuing flood of low-cost aluminium products represents a national security threat to the country.
“What we’re talking about [is] tariffs and/or quotas,” Trump told the assembled legislators.
“Part of the options would be tariffs coming in. As they dump steel, they pay tariffs, substantial tariffs, which means the United States would actually make a lot of money.”
Though aluminium and steel producers presented a unified front favoring trade sanctions, the 15 Republicans and 9 Democrats who attended the meeting offered a variety of viewpoints, with Republicans shying away from rash action and Democrats crying out for a decisive strike against overseas aluminium interests.
“I think we do need to be careful here, that we don’t start a reciprocal battle on tariffs,” opined Missouri’s junior senator Roy Blunt (R). “You know, we make aluminum and we make steel in Missouri, but we buy a lot of aluminum and we buy a lot of steel as well. From bass boats to beer cans, there’s a lot of aluminum out there.”
Providing stark contrast were the post-meeting comments of Pennsylvania’s senior senator, Democrat Bob Casey, Jr.
“The time for talk about standing up for our steelworkers has passed. It’s time for action.”