U.S. Steel Imports Fall 12% in Year to Date; Import Market Share Drops to 19%

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Through the first five months of 2019, U.S. steel imports were down 12% compared with the equivalent period in 2018, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported Tuesday.

According to AISI — citing Census Bureau data — the U.S. imported 2.06 million net tons of steel in May 2019, which marked a 38.2% decrease from the April import total.

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Meanwhile, for the first five months of the year, total and finished steel imports reached 13.58 million net tons and 9.95 million net tons, marking decreases of 11.7% and 18.1%, respectively, compared with the first five months of 2018.

Finished steel import market share reached an estimated 19% in May, according to AISI, after reaching 21% in April. For the first five months of the year, import market share is estimated at 21%. In January, import market share reached the 2019 monthly high of 25%.

By product type, several registered notable jumps in import levels from April to May:

  • sheets and strip all other metallic coatings (up 100%)
  • heavy structural shapes (up 98%)
  • reinforcing bars (up 56%)
  • hot rolled bars (up 17%)
  • standard pipe (up 15%)

By country, the biggest offshore exports of finished steel to the U.S. were: South Korea (290,000 net tons, up 5% from April), Japan (124,000 net tons, down 22%), Taiwan (81,000 net tons, up 13%), Germany (64,000 net tons, down 56%) and Vietnam (61,000 net tons, down 23%).

Meanwhile, country data for the first five months of the year also had South Korea on top, with 1.29 million net tons exported to the U.S., marking a 16% decline from the same period in 2018. South Korea was followed by: Japan (611,000 net tons, flat compared with the same period in 2018), Germany (517,000 net tons, down 6%), Taiwan (436,000 net tons, down 7%) and Vietnam (368,000 net tons, down 5%).

Last month, President Donald Trump removed the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum with respect to imports of the metals from Canada and Mexico. After implementation of the tariffs in 2018, Canada, Mexico and the E.U. won temporary exemptions; however, the exemptions were allowed to expire as of June 1, 2018.

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The removal of the tariffs marked a step forward in the approval process for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which would succeed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as the three countries’ trade agreement. Recently, Mexico became the first of the three countries to secure legislative approval of the USMCA.

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