A Commerce Department investigation into imports of steel into the U.S. and their impact on national security “has nothing to do with China,” President Donald Trump said Thursday at an Oval Office ceremony authorizing the inquiry.
Trump railed throughout his campaign against the trade practices of China, the nation most often and most prominently blamed for dumping that has damaged the U.S. steel industry. (Dumping generally refers to the practice of exporting a commodity to another country below that country’s market rate.)
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But other nations, including Japan, Germany, Canada, Mexico and Brazil are also major suppliers of steel to the U.S., and Trump said Thursday that “the dumping problem is a worldwide problem.”
The president’s refusal to single out China also comes as he has sought to lean on its president, Xi Jinping, to apply increased pressure on North Korea to rein in its bellicose rhetoric and nuclear program. After promising during the campaign to renegotiate the economic relationship between the two nations, Trump has said publicly that he told Xi that the U.S. would be willing to offer more favorable terms in trade negotiations if China is able to pressure North Korea.
Trump said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross would have the report completed for Trump “in the very, very near future.” At a briefing for reporters, Ross said his department’s report could possibly recommend imposing a tariff on all steel imports, regardless of which nation they come from.
At Thursday’s ceremony, Trump expressed pride in having pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which he said would have been “another NAFTA disaster.” He said his campaign promises to protect American workers are “one of the primary reasons I’m sitting here today as president.”
“Maintaining the production of American steel is extremely important to our national security and our defense industrial base,” Trump said. “Steel is critical to both our economy and our military. This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries.”