National security investigation into steel imports is due on Jan. 15; aluminum report a week later.
It’s the final countdown.
For months, we’ve been lamenting the Trump administration’s lack of progress on its national security investigations into steel and aluminum imports. After all, both President Trump and administration officials had pledged to unveil the findings of the “Section 232” investigations by July 1.
Neither have been released. But because Trump had pledged to do something by a specific date, foreign importers rushed product into the market to get ahead of any presidential action. That made the overall crisis worse; steel imports alone were up nearly 18 percent in 2017.
Now The Donald and his crew are coming up against a deadline they cannot ignore. By law, the Commerce Department has 270 days to present the findings of the Section 232 investigations to the president – meaning the deadline is Jan. 15 for the steel imports investigation; the aluminum report is due a week later.
From there, Trump will have 90 days to decide whether to do anything to address whatever is in the reports, which could include restricting imports through tariffs or other means.
It remains very unclear what Trump intends to do. While there is talk that 2018 will be the year that the president gets tough on trade, it remains all talk – and as the 232 delays show, we’ve heard plenty of talk from this president before.
But what is clear is that it is essential for the United States to maintain a strong industrial base, especially when it comes to vital commodities like steel and aluminum.
Both industries provide middle class jobs across the country – 140,000 people are directly employed by the steel industry, 161,000 by the aluminum industry – and the two industries together indirectly support nearly 2 million jobs.
Both are also essential to our national security and critical infrastructure. We need steel to build everything from aircraft carriers and tanks to bridges and the electric grid; aluminum is needed for fighter jets like the F-15 (and there’s only one smelter left that can make the high purity aluminum needed to build it).
Time is running out. Trump has pushed these investigations to the limit, and it is time for him to take strong, decisive action to safeguard American workers and our national security.