The American Institute for International Steel reports that steel imports dropped sharply from October to November, falling below their year-ago level. The United States imported 2.76 million net tons of steel in November, 11.4 percent less than the preceding month and 1.6 percent less than the previous November.
Imports from the three biggest suppliers of steel – the European Union, Canada and Brazil – all grew month-to-month, however, by 18.3 percent, 2.9 percent and almost 40 percent, respectively. Compared to November 2016, these marked increases of nearly 40 percent, 10.7 percent and 32.9 percent, respectively. Imports from Mexico fell 8.4 percent from October and 12.1 percent from a year earlier to 263,000 net tons, while imports from South Korea declined by 42.5 percent from a month earlier and 21.4 percent from the year prior to 214,000 net tons.
Through the first 11 months of the year, imports into the U.S. were up 17.7 percent at 35.68 million net tons. Canada shipped the most steel to the United States at 5.82 million net tons, 11.8 percent more than during the same time in 2016; followed by the European Union at 5.11 million net tons, up nearly 20 percent; Brazil, 4.8 million net tons, also up almost 20 percent; South Korea, nearly unchanged at 3.57 million net tons; and Mexico, up almost 18 percent at 3.25 million net tons.
Semifinished imports in November were down nearly 12 percent compared to November 2016 at 653,000 net tons. Year-to-date, though, semifinished imports swelled 30.2 percent to 8.81 million net tons.
AIIS notes, “The U.S. economy appears to be entering a period of strong growth, with quarterly gross domestic product expansion exceeding 3 percent in both the second and third quarters of 2017, and some analysts expecting a similar performance from Q4 once those numbers are announced in late January. Plus, the tax reform package that was passed into law in December will provide a boost in 2018 and beyond. “
“A growing economy needs a ready supply of quality, affordable steel, and that is often provided by foreign producers. The Trump administration, though, still seems intent on restricting steel imports, as when it repeatedly refers in its recently released National Security Strategy document to “unfair” trade practices by other countries. Making steel more expensive for American businesses – and therefore increasing the prices of products for American consumers – would likely return the United States to the slow growth/mediocre recovery that has been so common since the Great Recession. For a president whose economic goal is consistent 3-4 percent growth, protectionism should be an obvious thing to avoid.”
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