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According to Census Bureau data reported by the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) last week, U.S. imports of steel were down 5.3% through the first two months of the year compared with the same time frame in 2017.
Total steel imports through the end of February amounted to 5,245,000 net tons (NT), down 5.3% compared with the first two months of 2017. Finished steel imports in the year to date, meanwhile, amounted to 4,257,000 NT, down 3.5% year over year.
Finished steel market share stood at an estimated 24% in February and was at 25% for the year to date, down significantly from last summer when market share eclipsed the 30% mark.
Steel imports in February (2,363,000 NT) were down 18.0% from January, according to the report.
By product, several posted notable year-to-date increases: oil country goods (up 57%); hot rolled sheets (up 33%); line pipe (up 30%); hot rolled bars (up 27%); mechanical tubing (up 17%) and plates in coils (up 16%).
In terms of supply by country through the first two months of 2018, South Korea led the way with 616,000 NT, up 8% compared with the same time frame in 2017. Trailing South Korea were: Japan (232,000 NT, down 5%), Germany (206,000 NT, up 54%), Turkey (195,000 NT, down 61%) and Taiwan (192,000 NT, down 10%).
In related news, the U.S. and South Korea came to an agreement earlier this week vis-a-vis talks to reconfigure the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS). As part of the talks, South Korea was exempted from the Section 232 steel tariff, with the caveat of a 70% quota on exports to the U.S. (based on export averages from 2015-2017), amounting to a quota of about 2.68 million tons annually.
Last week, several countries were granted temporary exemptions from the 25% steel tariff, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced. In addition to the E.U., Brazil, Argentina, Australia and South Korea were granted temporary exemptions, Lighthizer said last Thursday (the South Korea exemption is now permanent, per Monday’s announcement).