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Which Sledgehammer Will Trump Use On U.S. Aluminium Imports?
- Feb 23, 2018 -

The U.S. Department of Commerce has “found that the quantities and circumstances of steel and aluminum imports” threaten to “impair the national security” of the United States.

The outcome of the twin “Section 232” investigations into the United States’ import dependency is no great surprise, although the legal reasoning may well be a future payday for international trade lawyers.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross conceded he wouldn’t be surprised if countries challenged any U.S. action at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It’s a distinct possibility given the Commerce Department’s recommendations for sweeping tariffs and quotas on any and every importing country.

But WTO disputes are long and winding affairs, while the “Section 232” process requires U.S. President Donald Trump to decide what action to take by April 11 (steel) and April 20 (aluminium).

It is possible that he will decide to do nothing at all.

No-one’s holding their breath.

The aluminium market has already placed its bets. CME futures contracts for physical U.S. aluminium premiums jumped from 13 to 15 cents per lb as the news broke on Friday.

Given the United States’ imports of primary aluminium now account for 90 percent of national demand, the potential implications for pricing are huge.

The goal, by contrast, is a modest one. “Success” would require the restart of just 500,000 tonnes of idled U.S. smelting capacity.