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Trump Calls for Section 232 Investigation for Steel

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The domestic steel production industry has benefited from trade cases filed over the past several years, with investigations into hot-rolled, cold-rolled and corrosion-resistant products getting favorable rulings that have helped to boost domestic prices and keep imports from dominating the market as they did in 2014.

Now, the industry is hopeful the use of another trade law mechanism will further deter foreign producers from the U.S. market. President Trump has called for a Section 232 investigation of steel. A Section 232 probe is prepared by the Department of Commerce and other agencies to find if the commodity in question is of vital importance to the country’s national security, a topic of high importance to the new president.

The outcome of trade cases is one area in which labor and management share a mutual self-interest. Thus, the president’s memo was applauded by steelworkers and steel producers alike.

"Steel is the backbone of our country, our infrastructure and our military. The president's action today will reveal to policymakers in Washington what every American already knows: We must have a strong steel sector to be a strong country,” says Leo Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers.

"AK Steel particularly feels the ongoing impact of unfair electrical steel imports flooding our market," says Roger Newport. "We cannot allow our nation's electrical grid, which is a critical part of the nation's infrastructure and vital to America's national security interests, to be dependent on foreign electrical steel, particularly in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis.”

Once launched, the investigation can take up to 270 days to complete. The results are then sent back to the president, who has three months to consider the Commerce secretary’s recommendation and what steps to take. Given that the probe was initiated at Trump’s request, his oft-stated support for the industry, and the strong presence of steel industry veterans in his inner circle of economic advisors, actions ultimately favorable to the U.S. steel industry are not hard to imagine.

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