June 8, 2017 / 3:40 PM / 4 months ago

Wilbur Ross sees 'genuine' national security concern on steel

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that a national security review of the U.S. steel industry will be completed “very shortly” and will seek to protect the interests of both domestic steel producers and consumers.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross sits for an interview in his office in Washington, U.S. May 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Ross told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing that he believes there is “a genuine national security issue that must be considered in this case,” the second major signal in two days that the Trump administration is preparing new steel import restrictions.

In a speech in Cincinnati on Wednesday, Trump said: “Wait until you see what I‘m going to do for steel and for your steel companies. We’re going to stop the dumping, and stop all of these wonderful other countries from coming in and killing our companies and our workers. You’ll be seeing that very soon.”

The steel review under a Cold War-era trade law would result in a “thoughtful” set of recommendations for Trump to consider for action, Ross said. He has previously said he expected to complete the study by the end of June.

Ross identified three kinds of actions that could be recommended: imposing tariffs above the current, country-specific anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties on steel products; imposing quotas limiting the volume of steel imports; and a hybrid “tariff-rate quota” option that would include quotas on specific products with new tariffs for imports above those levels.

Choosing the latter option would help mitigate concerns over steel price inflation from tariffs, Ross said. Some steel users have voiced concerns that import limits would cause price increases that would make them more vulnerable to foreign competitors.

“The overall impact on inflation, were that to be the route, should be relatively modest,” Ross said. “So we’re very mindful of the need both to protect the domestic steel producers from inappropriate behavior on the part of foreign dumpers, but also to protect the steel consumers, the steel fabricators, the auto companies and everybody else who uses steel.”

Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Dan Grebler

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