These days, three numbers in succession are all the talk in the worlds of steel and aluminum: 2-3-2.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports and whether they pose a national-security risk have been in the news since the probe was announced in April. Industry organizations have weighed in on the investigation, some in reference to the tangential debate of renegotiating the 23-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
During a scheduled press briefing Wednesday afternoon, several senior-level executives from the aluminum industry will preview testimony that will be given at Thursday’s Department of Commerce hearing. Thursday’s hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m Eastern Time and will be live-streamed on both YouTube and Facebook.
Ahead of Wednesday’s preview, members of the Congressional Aluminum Caucus wrote in support of the domestic aluminum industry and the Section 232 investigation, stating “we support the Administration’s efforts to review the strategic importance of aluminum and consider actions that will address unfair trade.”
U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon (R-IN), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Bill Johnson (R-OH) and Bill Owens (D-NY-Retired) formed the Congressional Aluminum Caucus in August 2013. The Caucus consists of 35 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
The Caucus’ letter, signed by 13 representatives and addressed to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, outlined some of the main points of contention for the aluminum industry.
Unsurprisingly, Chinese overcapacity sits at the forefront of the policy debate for the American aluminum industry.
“Chinese overcapacity and trade of Chinese products through third countries is the fundamental issue that needs to be addressed by the Administration,” the letter states, adding that “Chinese oversupply affects the full value chain.”
While the representatives took China to task, they also made sure to highlight other trading partners, like fellow NAFTA member Canada, and their role in a hypothetical alteration of U.S. trade policy.
“… U.S. aluminum trade with Canada is strategically vital and supports many American jobs,” the letter continued. “A trade remedy that impairs aluminum trade with Canada would not be in our national security or economic interest.”
According to a release from The Aluminum Association, Wednesday’s press briefing will focus on similar subjects, namely Chinese overcapacity, national security, and exemptions for Canadian imports and other producers who “trade fairly and who have not contributed to rising global overcapacity.”
Commerce Department Rulings Tackle Circumvention Efforts
In recent developments, the aluminum industry celebrated what some in the industry dubbed a “victory” last week when the Department of Commerce ruled in favor of the petitioning Aluminum Extrusion Fair Trade Committee.
The June 13 ruling determined Chinese imports of 6xxx series aluminum alloys disguised as pallets would be included in the scope of antidumping and countervailing duty orders on aluminum extrusions from China.
The ruling came approximately six months after another Commerce Department decision cracking down on Chinese circumvention of extrusion orders. The December ruling included 1xxx series aluminum alloys under the umbrella of the extrusion orders.
Like their colleagues in the steel industry for their respective Section 232 investigation, those in the domestic aluminum industry will watching Thursday’s Department of Commerce hearing with great interest.