US steel importers call for end to tariffs, quotas

The American Metals Supply Chain Institute (AMSCI) is urging President Joe Biden to eliminate steel and aluminium tariffs in an effort to lower domestic costs and boost employment in the United States' metals supply chain.

The US steel and aluminium industries have benefited from a vast array of protectionist policies that have outlived their usefulness, AMSCI chairman John Foster said in a letter to Biden dated Monday February 1, adding that in today’s de-centralized global marketplace such measures “create more economic animus, confusion and costly bureaucratic micromanagement of the economy” than benefit.

“Tariffs are a policy to protect a few at the expense of many,” Foster told Fastmarkets.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration imposed the Section 232 tariffs and quotas in 2018, establishing 25% duties on steel imports and 10% on aluminium imports. Some countries, such as South Korea and Brazil, have been exempted from the tariffs and instead are subject to quotas.

Following implementation of the Section 232 tariffs, Fastmarkets’ daily steel hot-rolled coil index, fob mill US jumped to $45.84 per hundredweight on July 5, 2018 – at the time a nearly 10-year high.

Since then, the index has soared to all-time highs, reaching $58 per cwt on January 14 of this year – the highest level recorded by Fastmarkets since at least 1960. The index was calculated at $56.56 per cwt on February 1, up by 0.1% from $56.50 per cwt on Friday.

US government policy should adapt to new market developments in ways that serve the needs of a broadly integrated metals supply chain, and not just one element of it, the AMSCI contends. 

The AMSCI, formerly the American Institute for International Steel, previously waged a legal battle against the Section 232 tariffs and quotas. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the case for a second time on June 22 of last year, ending the lobbying group’s challenge to the law. 

But many domestic steel producers and the United Steelworkers union don’t share the AMSCI’s views.

The USW, as well as the Steel Manufacturers Association, American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports and American Institute of Steel Construction have called on the Biden administration to maintain Section 232 steel tariffs and quotas, and last month cheered Biden’s executive order strengthening “Buy America” laws.

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