This Morning in Metals: Trump clarifies coronavirus-related travel suspension

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This morning in metals news, President Donald Trump said the travel suspension announced Wednesday night does not include trade (despite seeming to indicate as much during his televised speech Wednesday night), shareholders have approved the merger agreement for Cleveland-Cliffs and AK Steel, and Cleveland-Cliffs’ CEO said a tariff loophole could lead him to close a steel plant in Butler, Pennsylvania.

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Travel suspension won’t include trade

President Donald Trump addressed the nation Wednesday night regarding the unfolding coronavirus situation, announcing a suspension of travel from Europe for 30 days (the U.K. excepted).

Trump also made reference to trade, which prompted some confusion.

“There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval,” the president said Wednesday night. “Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”

However, the reference to trade was quickly walked back.

“Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe,” Trump tweeted later Wednesday night. “The restriction stops people not goods.”

Shareholders approve Cleveland-Cliffs, AK Steel merger

The merger of Cleveland-Cliffs and AK Steel — which we broke down back in December — has received the green light from shareholders.

“The shareholders of Cliffs and the stockholders of AK Steel have spoken, and delivered an outstanding victory in support of our transaction,” said Lourenco Goncalves, chairman, president and CEO of Cleveland-Cliffs. “I thank you all for your unequivocal demonstration of support. The new Cleveland-Cliffs is a lot stronger than either Cliffs or AK Steel individually. We are ready to transform your confidence into shareholder value, and that’s what we are going to do.”

Tariff loophole could force closure of plant, Goncalves says

Elsewhere, Goncalves said a tariff loophole could lead to the closure of Butler Works in Butler, Pennsylvania.

The Butler plant is currently owned by AK Steel, but will be acquired by Cleveland-Cliffs when the aforementioned merger transaction closes March 13.

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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Goncalves told Trump he would close the Butler plant — with it losing 1,500 jobs — if the U.S. does not expand tariffs to include electrical steels coming to the U.S. via Canada and Mexico.

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