US may delay imposing tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from some countries
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer today told the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives that the administration of President Donald Trump is in discussions with the European Union, Australia and Argentina to exclude them from the 25pc tariff on imported steel and 10pc tariff on imported aluminum set to take effect on 23 March.
Lighthizer also singled out Brazil as a candidate for exemption based on its unique position as a supplier of semi-finished steel products to Brazilian affiliates operating in the US.
Still, "I don't think you are going to see a lot of exclusions done," Lighthizer told Congress.
The administration may delay imposing the tariffs on countries with whom it is negotiating exemptions in order to maintain the US' commercial relationships, Lighthizer said.
Negotiations are ongoing, but the administration hopes to resolve any country exclusions by the end of April.
Lighhitzer expects any country exempted from the tariffs to assist the US with problems like global overcapacity and transshipment that plague the steel and aluminum industries.
Trump in his executive orders authorizing the tariffs excluded Canada and Mexico amid renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).
South Korea is expected to be excluded from the tariffs on similar terms as the US renegotiates the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as Korus.
An exclusion for South Korea would come even as steel industry executives have singled out the country as a major transshipper of Chinese steel.
In testimony today before members of the US Congress' Steel Caucus, Steel Dynamics chief executive Mark Millett said that South Korea, the top destination for Chinese steel exports, and other countries "import vast quantities of dumped and subsidized steel from China to make further processed steel products that are then shipped to the US."
"It is clear to see the direct connection between China's steel exports to Korea and Korea's pipe and tube exports to the US," Tony Frabotta, a vice president at US pipe and tube manufacturer Zekelman Industries, said.
South Korea was the third largest exporter of steel to the US in 2017 behind Canada and Brazil, at 3.6mn t. Oil country goods such as pipe and tube represented nearly a third of US imports from South Korea, rising to 1.1mn t from 310,715t in 2016.