Donald Trump signed memorandum Thursday launching a Commerce Department investigation into whether excessive steel imports are affecting national security in the United States.
“Today, I’m directing the Department of Commerce to immediately prioritize the investigation that began yesterday and really long before that — because Wilbur and I have been working on this for a long time — into foreign steel arriving into our markets, and to submit a report on the effects of these foreign steel products on the national security of the United States,” the president said. “It’s not just the pricing, it’s not just employment, it also has to do with the national security of our country, which people never talk about.”
According to Wilbur Ross, the investigation was “self-initiated” by the Commerce Department and will consider “the domestic production needed for the projected national defense requirement” and if domestic industries can meet that requirement. It will also look at “the impact of foreign competition on specific domestic industries and the impact of displacement of domestic product because of foreign imports.”
The reason the imports could be a matter of national security is because when countries like China produce too much steel at low prices, it causes facilities in the U.S. to close. That’s significant because then their steel is used to make military equipment — like aircraft carriers and tactical vehicles — and it could lead to U.S. dependence on nations like China.
“Steel is an important factor in our infrastructure,” Ross noted. “We are building up aircraft, we are building up our fleet, building up our tanks and building up our military effort. And that’s just in peacetime.”
“We are groping here to see whether the facts warrant a more comprehensive solution,” he said. “As you know, steel has been a very important issue in the president’s campaign for office.”
Ross said dumping — charging a lower price for goods in a foreign market — is killing U.S. steel workers and steel companies. He said it’s continuing to rise despite repeated claims from the Chinese that they will reduce their steel production.
“We are going to use American steel. We are going to use American labor. We are going to come first in all deals,” Ross said as he quoted the president.
The investigation calls for Ross to deliver a report on his findings to the president within 270 days. Ross said no action will be taken in the study, but after it’s finished, the administration will make their decision based on national security.
“The important question is protecting our defense needs.”