This Morning in Metals: Ford to Invest $1B in Chicago Plants

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This morning in metals news, Ford Motor Co. announced an investment in its Chicago plants, industry group American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reiterated its support for the Trump administration’s Section 232 steel tariffs and finished steel imports through the first 11 months of 2018 were down 10.8% year over year.

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Ford Announces Chicago Investment

The Detroit automaker announced a $1 billion investment in its Chicago plants that it says will create 500 jobs.

“We are proud to be America’s top producer of automobiles. Today, we are furthering our commitment to America with this billion dollar manufacturing investment in Chicago and 500 more good-paying jobs,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of global operations. “We reinvented the Explorer from the ground up, and this investment will further strengthen Ford’s SUV market leadership.

AISI: Section 232 Trade Remedy is ‘Critical’

Last week, four members of Congress introduced the Bicameral Congressional Trade Authority Act, which seeks to curtail the executive branch’s — that is, the president’s — authority to impose Section 232 tariffs on imports by virtue of requiring Congressional approval.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out in support of the proposal.

“The Chamber is deeply concerned by the unrestricted use of Section 232 to impose new tariffs,” said in a prepared statement. “Tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imports have harmed U.S. industry and elicited retaliatory tariffs from our closest allies, inflicting serious harm on U.S. workers, farmers, and small businesses, and undermine U.S. efforts to build an international coalition of like-minded countries to combat the use of unfair trade practices.”

However, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) has again expressed its support for Trump’s use of Section 232 to impose steel tariffs.

“The Administration’s trade actions and tax and regulatory reform policies, in addition to the strong economic climate enabled by those policies, have allowed the American steel industry to begin to recover after more than a decade of low capacity utilization and weaker earnings due to repeated surges in imports fueled by global steel overcapacity,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of AISI, in a prepared statement.

“Capacity utilization at existing mills has increased in recent months to over 80 percent — levels not seen in the last ten years. Some shuttered plants are being re-opened, laid-off workers are going back to work and companies are making investments in new steel production facilities.”

Gibson added that “recent progress” will disappear if the tariffs are “prematurely terminated.”

“The massive overcapacity in steel still exists globally,” Gibson said. “And China in particular is producing steel at record levels – exceeding one billion net tons in 2018. This means there is plenty of excess supply that will flood into our market but for the continuation of the Section 232 tariffs.  The Section 232 trade remedy is critical to ensuring steel remains a vital asset for our national and economic security.”

Steel Imports Down 10.8%

Speaking of AISI, its recently released steel imports report showed U.S. steel imports last year through November were down 11% year over year.

In November, the U.S. imported 2.39 million tons of steel, which marked a 27.2% year-over-year decrease.

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Meanwhile, through the first 11 months of 2018 steel imports reached 31.83 million tons, down 10.8% from the same period in 2017.

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