WASHINGTON – The US Department of Commerce will open an investigation to determine if aluminum imports are a threat to national security, in keeping with the protectionist promises of President Donald Trump, who signed an executive order on the matter on Thursday.
The investigation will be undertaken as per Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, which gives the president authority to set barriers and tariffs on imports of certain products for national security reasons, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a telephone press conference on Wednesday.
The move, said Ross, is similar to the one made last week on steel, although aluminum has direct defense implications, given that it is used to build F-35 and F-18 warplanes.
Although he said that the decision does not target specific countries, Ross emphasized that China’s share of the world aluminum market grew in the decade prior to 2016 from 11 percent to 55 percent.
In accord with the 1962 law, Trump last week asked the Commerce Department to launch an investigation into whether steel imports have implications for national security as a first step before deciding what – if any – measures could be taken on the matter.
Trump’s protectionist sentiments led last week to the imposition of higher tariffs on lumber imports from Canada, and the president has insisted that he wants to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada.
During the administration of former President Barack Obama, the US government presented assorted formal complaints to the World Trade Organization regarding the subsidies provided by China on certain aluminum and steel products, something that – in Washington’s judgment – has saturated the markets and reduced prices worldwide.