US Commerce Department delivers aluminium 232 report to Trump

Now that US Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross has delivered the long-awaited Section 232 report on the impact of aluminium imports to US President Donald Trump, the renewed prospect of trade actions may drive prices skyward, market participants said.

“After this submission, by law the president has 90 days to decide on any potential action based on the findings of the investigation,” Commerce said on Monday January 22, confirming reports heard on Friday January 19 that the findings had been delivered.
According to one Washington-based source who spoke with American Metal Market, the report was likely submitted to the White House on Friday night.
Similar to the steel 232 investigation results, which were delivered to the White House earlier this month, Commerce said it will publish its summary of the aluminium report after Trump issues his decision in the case. If the president takes the full 90 days to determine what trade action to take, if any, the outcomes of both probes would not be made public until mid-April at the earliest.
The news of the report’s completion has spurred mixed reactions in the market - with aluminium industry groups urging Trump to pursue comprehensive action, but market participants concerned about the lack of clarity regarding what the president will do.
“We expect that the report will recognize the significant role the aluminum industry plays in ensuring our nation’s security and welcome the opportunity to engage the administration on an appropriate remedy that will benefit the entire aluminum value chain,” Aluminum Association president and chief executive officer Heidi Brock said in a statement on Sunday January 21. “The association supports actions that specifically address Chinese overcapacity, and protect trading relationships between the US and critical partner countries which are crucial to a thriving domestic aluminum industry.”
The Aluminum Association stressed that any remedies undertaken by Trump “should not interfere with the current trading relationship between the United States and critical trading partner countries.”
That sentiment was echoed by other industry representatives like Norberto Vidaña, president of the Mexican Aluminum Institute, who called for Trump to focus on China while sparing North American Free Trade Agreement participants.
“The US and Canada, we are family,” Vidaña said of those countries’ relationship with Mexico. He further argued that Nafta is “very beneficial for the whole region,” speaking during a question-and-answer session at AMM’s Mexican Steel Forum, held from Tuesday to Thursday, January 16-18, in Cancun, Mexico.
Fair playing field
However, not all industry groups will be satisfied if Trump’s response to the report is limited to China.
“American producers need comprehensive relief against excess capacity from all state-supported enterprises - not just China - to create a fair playing field on which we can compete and prosper,” a spokesman for Chicago-based aluminium producer Century Aluminum Co said January 21. “We encourage the president to pursue a solution that extends beyond China to address the global capacity challenge.”
While industry groups applauded Commerce for concluding its investigation, which began last April, individuals who spoke to AMM were less convinced as to what the report means for the industry - if anything.
“I think it is revealing that both the steel and aluminium reports have not been made public,” John Mothersole, director of research, pricing and purchasing service at United Kingdom-based IHS Markit, told AMM. “I interpret this to mean that the debate within the administration about what kind of actions to take is still going on.”

Kirk Maltais

Published

Kirk Maltais

January 23, 2018

00:46 GMT