Author Archives: Fouad Egbaria

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This morning in metals news, gold isn’t so golden, U.S. sheet steel prices held steady as the Department of Commerce’s self-imposed Section 232 announcement deadline came and went, and mining operations in Chile could open back up, as the price of the metal has rebounded.

Steady as Steel

Friday, June 30, was the deadline set by the Department of Commerce for the announcement of its Section 232 investigation regarding steel imports.

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That self-imposed deadline came and went without an announcement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Sheet steel prices held steady Friday, Platts reported, and price changes aren’t expected until the 232 investigation results are announced.

The steel industry has been waiting for the Trump administration’s policy decisions on the subject of steel imports. Apparently, the industry will have to wait a little while longer.

Gold Hits Seven-Week Low

Gold fell to its lowest spot price in seven weeks, Bloomberg reported.

Rises in the U.S. dollar and European stock markets led to decreased demand for so-called safe-haven metals (like gold), the outlet reported.

According to the article, June and July are typically “middling” months for the precious metal.

Chilean Copper Mines Could be Opening Back Up

With copper prices on the rise, mines in Chile may be ready to open back up, Reuters reported.

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Mines in Chile, a major copper producer, closed in recent years as a result of slumping prices. According to Reuters, copper prices have risen 7% in 2017.

The mines reopening is far from a sure thing, however. According to Reuters, some investment decisions will wait until after Chile’s presidential election in November.

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Before we head into the weekend, let’s take a brief look back at some of the news from the world of metals this week:

China’s Falling Steel Exports?

Earlier this week, our Stuart Burns wrote about the phenomenon of dropping Chinese steel exports:

“As we noted in a piece yesterday reviewing the 232 probe, China’s share of the U.S. import market for steel products has been falling for the last couple of years, mainly due to successful anti-dumping cases,” Burns writes. “China no longer appears even in the top 10.

So, what exactly is going on in China with respect to steel production and demand? Can we take it that Beijing’s actions to tackle excess steel production have finally resolved China’s deflationary impact on global steel markets?”

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In case you missed it on Monday, definitely give the story a read, especially as the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 steel investigation results will be announced any day now.

Indian Coal Faces Green Wave

Also earlier this week, our Sohrab Darabshaw wrote about coal mine closures in India, partially a result of the growth of the renewable energy sector:

“One estimate by the Energy and Resources Institute predicts if the cost of renewable energy and storage continue to fall, India may phase out coal power completely by 2050. Both solar and wind energy prices have been steadily decreasing over the last three years.

“In 2016-17, India added over 14,000 megawatts of new renewable energy power compared to almost 7,000 megawatts of new coal power capacity.”

Even so, the dependence on old energy sources won’t disappear immediately. Yesterday, Indian Steel Minister Choudhary Birender Singh announced India will ramp up its steel production significantly. That uptick in production will need energy, and Singh indicated Coal India Ltd. will be asked to provide the coal needed to back the steel-production operations.

In general, however, the interplay between older, dirtier sources of energy and clean, renewable energy sources is happening all over the world.

China-U.S. Back and Forth

Tensions have been building between the U.S. and China, as Reuters reported President Donald Trump was growing frustrated with China over its inability to rein in North Korea, while China expressed concern this week about the results of the Section 232 aluminum investigation.

The Department of Commerce investigations into steel and aluminum imports were announced in April.

Adding to the tension is China’s disapproval of a planned $1.42 billion arms sale by the U.S. to Taiwan, which the Chinese embassy denounced in a statement, Reuters reported Friday.

With many expecting tariffs or quotas (or a combination of the two) to be slapped on steel and aluminum imports (as an outcome of the 232 investigation), there’s no doubt the tension between the U.S. and China will only increase.

What’s Next For U.S.-India Ties?

President Donald Trump met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week in Washington D.C. Our Stuart Burns wrote about Modi’s visit and what could be in store for the U.S.-India relationship throughout the Trump administration.

During a joint press statement this week, Trump stressed India’s status as the world’s largest democracy and touted himself as a friend to India.

However, he also touched on thornier issues, like trade barriers.

“I look forward to working with you Mr. Prime Minister to create jobs in our countries, to grow our economies, to create a trading relationship that is fair and reciprocal. It is important that barriers be removed to the export of U.S. goods into your markets and that we reduce our trade deficit with your country.”

After the Tragedy

The Grenfell Tower fire earlier this month could have been prevented if safe building materials had been used. Burns wrote about that and more in his piece on the tragedy.

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This morning in metals news, India looks to boost its steel output, China expresses concern about the Trump administration’s Section 232 probe into aluminum and steel imports, and researchers have discovered a new, environmentally friendly way to extract copper.

India Prepares for Surge of Steel Production

India is looking to ramp up its steel output to 300 million tons, according to a report in the Press Trust of India.

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Steel Minister Choudhary Birender Singh announced today the steps that will be taken to ramp up production. Two new policies aim to boost production to 300 million tons by 2030, according to the report.

Self-sufficiency is the objective of the new national steel policy. Singh added the government has reached out to Coal India Ltd. to assure that there will be enough fuel to support the uptick in production.

China Awaits U.S. 232 Investigation Verdicts

According to the Chinese Commerce Ministry, China is “concerned” about the impending result of the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports — one for which China has been the central focus.

In a report from Reuters, Sun Jiwen, a spokesman for the Commerce Ministry, said the basis for the investigations — national security — is too broadly defined.

Yesterday, Reuters reported Trump was growing increasingly frustrated with China, particularly in reference to its handling of North Korea.

Unsurprisingly, there are tensions and concerns on both sides of the equation (although tariffs would affect other nations and not just China). Many expect the Trump administration to announce the Section 232 findings in the near future.

A New Way to Extract Copper

MIT researchers have discovered a way to separate pure copper from sulfur-based minerals while eliminating toxic byproducts in the process.

According to a report in MIT News, the research team identified the proper temperature and chemical mixture in order to “selectively separate pure copper and other metallic trace elements from sulfur-based minerals using molten electrolysis.”

The article notes: “Copper is in increasing demand for use in electric vehicles, solar energy, consumer electronics and other energy efficiency targets. Most current copper extraction processes burn sulfide minerals in air, which produces sulfur dioxide, a harmful air pollutant that has to be captured and reprocessed, but the new method produces elemental sulfur, which can be safely reused, for example, in fertilizers. The researchers also used electrolysis to produce rhenium and molybdenum, which are often found in copper sulfides at very small levels.”

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In addition to being a fascinating scientific discovery and process, a clean way to extract an increasingly important product like copper is a great development.

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Less than a week after the Department of Commerce’s hearing on the ongoing Section 232 aluminum investigation, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) kicked off three days of hearings Tuesday regarding renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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Renegotiation of NAFTA has picked up steam with Donald Trump’s ascension to the presidency. In fact, Trump reportedly was ready to remove the U.S. from the 23-year-old agreement in April, until calls from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto convinced him otherwise. The episode came a few months after Trump signed an executive order to withdraw the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Lawmakers and business representatives had the chance to express their thoughts on renegotiating the trilateral trade agreement when the hearing began Tuesday. The hearing continued for a second day Wednesday and concludes Thursday.

Businesses represented included metals industries. Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), spoke at Tuesday’s session. In a prepared AISI statement, Gibson said NAFTA has been largely successful, but could be modernized. He added that the agreement has “strengthened manufacturing supply chains, contributed to increases in intra-NAFTA trade and investment, and enabled a stronger relationship with Canada and Mexico.”

Gibson added NAFTA is the steel industry’s most important free-trade agreement, noting that 90% of steel mill product exports go to Canada or Mexico. In the time frame since the agreement went into effect in 1994, Gibson said exports to Canada and Mexico have increased threefold and the U.S. has moved from a steel trade deficit to a fairly even steel trade relationship.

However, like others in the industry, Gibson argued there is room for improvement, namely in the form of strengthening rules of origin, more effectively promoting trade enforcement cooperation and coordination, establishing disciplines on the conduct of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), establishing enforceable currency disciplines, and streamlining customs procedures and upgrading border infrastructure.

“While the Agreement has been beneficial, these approaches would improve it to make the American steel industry stronger, and create jobs in the process,” Gibson said.

In its submitted written comment, the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI) agreed that while NAFTA has been successful, it can be improved.

“While we strongly agree with the Administration’s position that NAFTA can be modernized and improved, we also recognize that the Agreement has largely been successful,” the MSCI statement reads. “It has helped level the playing field and has created well-established, fully-integrated, market-driven trading mechanisms that allow for free and fair trade between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

“The United States Trade Representative and the Trump Administration should take care not to upset the metal trade relationship between these countries.”

The Aluminum Association struck a similar tone in its submitted comment.

“It is vital, however, that the negotiations to modernize NAFTA strengthen and expand opportunities under the agreement, without diminishing its unquestionable benefits generated by the duty-free movement of aluminum and aluminum products throughout North America,” the statement, signed by Heidi Brock, president and CEO of The Aluminum Association, reads.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., emphasized the importance of Buy America policies — particularly with respect to transportation — in his submitted comment.

“Any renegotiated NAFTA must not preclude Buy America policies from applying to Department of Transportation grants,” Lipinski wrote. “As our domestic manufacturing and steel sectors continue to be threatened, Buy America remains an important part of United States trade and manufacturing policy and should not be forsaken.”

What sorts of renegotiation proposals actually come forward remains to be seen. Trump mentioned NAFTA often on the campaign trail and his intent to renegotiate the deal, particularly citing U.S. trade deficits with Mexico. In 2016, the U.S. had a more than $64 billion trade deficit with its neighbor to the south, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The U.S. last had a trade surplus with Mexico in 1994 ($1.3 billion) — the year NAFTA went into effect. The U.S. has had a trade deficit with Mexico every year since then.

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With its neighbor to the north, the U.S. had a trade deficit of $11 billion in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

This year, from January to April, the U.S. had trade deficits with Mexico and Canada of $23 billion and $8.5 billion, respectively.

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This morning in metals news, a hearing on NAFTA and possible renegotiation of the 23-year-old trilateral trade agreement continues into its second day, the results of the Trump administration’s Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports might be subject to readjustments and copper has proven to be as precious as gold in some ways.

NAFTA Talks Continue Into Day Two

The Office of the United States Trade Representative kicked off hearings on the subject of NAFTA, soliciting views on if (and how) the trade agreement should be renegotiated.

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Trump was was reportedly prepared to pull the U.S. out of the trade agreement in April before the Canadian and Mexican leaders convinced him otherwise.

For many, including those in metals industries, NAFTA has been mostly successful, but could be modernized.

The hearing continues today, having started at 9 a.m. ET and concluding at 6:30 p.m. ET. Yesterday’s hearing included comments from Hollie Noveletsky, CEO of Novel Iron Works, and Thomas Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI).

More than 1,400 public comments were submitted online ahead of the hearing.

A full list of scheduled speakers is available on the USTR website.

Malleable Situation: Prepping for 232 Recommendations

As the U.S. steel and aluminum industries await the announcements of the Trump administration’s policy recommendations following Section 232 investigations into imports of the metals, some industry organizations think the outcomes are subject to change.

Kevin Dempsey, senior vice president of public policy for AISI, told Platts there could be some fine-tuning of the administration’s announced course of trade actions.

As for retaliatory measures by other countries in the case of the Trump administration’s imposition of tariffs or quotas? Dempsey indicated to Platts the threat of retaliation in response to trade policy actions is always a possibility.

It has been 16 years since the last 232 investigation. What will happen this time around? Most are expecting tariffs, of course, but no one knows exactly what they will look like. In addition, the timeline for the announcement of the investigation’s findings is even murkier. According to Dempsey, the administration might even wait until after the G20 summit, which is scheduled to take place July 7-8.

Copper is Golden

When most people think of monetary stability, of safe-haven assets, they think of gold — and they’d be right to do so.

But when it comes to inflation, Bloomberg reports copper has actually kept up better.

According to a correlation analysis of total return commodity indexes compiled by Bloomberg, for every 1 percent annual increase in the consumer price index since 1992, copper jumped almost 18 percent, more than three times the 5.2 percent gain logged by gold.

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Imports of steel and aluminum are under the spotlight these days, as the Trump administration in April opened Section 232 investigations into the metals to determine if they posed threats to national security.

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According to a recent report from the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), steel imports were up by 2.5% in May. According to the report, collected from U.S. Census Bureau data, the U.S. imported a total of 3,434,000 net tons (NT) of steel in May 2017, including 2,574,000 NT of finished steel — up 2.5% and 1.8%, respectively, compared with final data for April.

Comparing the first five months of the year with the same time frame in 2016, total imports jumped by 14.4%.

The top five countries sending the most steel to the U.S., in descending order, in May were: South Korea (329,000 NT), Turkey (154,000 NT), Germany (142,000 NT), Japan (127,000 NT) and India (86,000 NT). South Korea was also the biggest supplier in the year to date, despite export totals to the U.S. being down 3% from the same period in 2016. Japan (8%) and Germany (1%) also posted declines in their year-to-date export totals to the U.S. compared with 2016.

However, Turkey and Taiwan posted major increases. Steel imports from Taiwan saw a 67% leap compared with January-May 2016.

Meanwhile, domestically, the AISI’s monthly steel report noted domestic raw steel production was as estimated 1,729,000 new tons for the week ending June 24, good for a capability utilization rate of 74.2% (compared with 75.1% for the same week in 2016).

Zooming out a bit, year-to-date production is actually up compared with the same point last year, up by 2.3%. So far this year, there has been a capability utilization rate of 74.4%, up from the 72.6% rate to the same point last year.

Of course, the country that is at the center of the 232 investigations has not even yet been mentioned here: China.

The Trump administration launched investigations using Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, a little-used clause that gives the president authority to act if certain imports are deemed threats to the country’s national security. The last 232 investigation took place in 2001.

But as the recent Department of Commerce hearings regarding the steel and aluminum investigations — held May 24 and June 22, respectively — indicate, China is the main focus of the Trump administration, and the domestic steel and aluminum industries. Among other concerns, the U.S. says Chinese excess capacity has flooded the markets worldwide with cheap products subsidized by the Chinese government, making it difficult for U.S. producers to compete.

According to Section 232, the Secretary of Commerce has 270 days from an investigation’s announcement to provide the president with a formal report and recommendations. That 270-day mark is well down the road, but many reports have indicated the administration could be close to announcing its verdict in the two cases. While uncertainty is the only certain thing these days, many expect the administration to act by imposing tariffs, quotas, or a combination of the two against China.

Potential Blowback From Tariffs?

What effect will the imposition of tariffs have? Well, it might have some unintended consequences, namely negatively affecting trading partners like Canada and the European Union. In fact, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said Monday the 28-member bloc is preparing for retaliatory measures if the EU is unfairly impacted by prospective trade tariffs from the U.S. In other words, a series of trade wars could happen on numerous fronts.

As is often the case, this is not a situation of U.S. versus China — far from it. Many other nations, including those considered friendly to the U.S. and considered market economies, are caught in the web of the forthcoming 232 verdicts. The aforementioned top exporters — South Korea, Turkey, Germany, India and Japan — could also be affected by Section 232-related trade policy readjustments.

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Based on President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, both on the campaign trail and as president, it seems likely that tariffs or quotes are forthcoming — but, of course, they’re no sure thing. Less clear is what exactly would happen in the aftermath of the institution of tariffs or quotas.

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This morning in metals news, the global metal fabrication robot market is set to grow a great deal in the next four years, congressmen are asking President Donald Trump to limit the scope of any potential aluminum tariffs (stemming from the administration’s Section 232 investigation) and the president is reportedly growing increasingly frustrated with China, which could lead to — as many expect — steel tariffs.

Metal Fabrication Robot Market to Grow by CAGR of 18.51%

The global metal fabrication robot market is going to grow in a big way in the coming four years, according to a report from Research and Markets.

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There is an “increase in focus by vendors to improve manipulation, navigation, cognition, and perception of metal fabrication robots,” the report states. From 2017-2021, the market is expected to grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.51%.

There is growing interest from manufacturers for robot manufacturing technology. According to the report, purchasing managers around the world are looking to buy from metal fabricators which can keep prices low, even during economic downturns.

Of course, this isn’t great news for human beings who hold these manufacturing jobs, but automation is not going anywhere, whether on the manufacturing side or the usage side (for example: driverless, automated vehicles).

Congressmen Hope Trump Can Be Flexible on Aluminum

As the domestic steel and aluminum industries — and their counterparts around the globe — await the announcement of the administration’s Section 232 investigation findings, some congressmen are asking the president to limit the scope of any proposed punitive measures on aluminum imports.

According to letters obtained by Bloomberg, several congressmen have written to the administration to state their concerns about the potential effects of tariffs on aluminum imports. In letters addressed to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Defense Secretary James Mattis, the legislators argue that tariffs could increase costs for consumers and industrial users of aluminum.

One letter, signed by 44 members of the House, indicated a hope for the scope of the 232 ruling to be limited to “only products that are used for national security applications.”

Whether that will end up being the case remains to be seen. In recent weeks, other countries have expressed concern about the impending 232 rulings, particularly the European Union. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström even said that tariffs will adversely affect the EU producers, and that the EU is considering options for retaliatory measures. Now, even U.S. aluminum companies are expressing concern about rising prices and potential supply-chain disruptions.

Politics, Steel Converge As Trump Administration Prepares for 232 Announcements

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Trump is growing “increasingly frustrated” over what he perceives as China’s inaction with respect to North Korea.

That political football could find its way into the arena of commerce, as Trump is considering trade remedies against China, according to officials. According to the Bloomberg report, Trump is considering a “range of actions,” including tariffs on steel, a well-publicized option which was already on the table as part of the Section 232 investigation launched in April.

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Like with aluminum, it’s unclear exactly what the Trump administration will do, even if Trump’s rhetoric indicates tariffs are on the way.

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This morning in metals news: copper slides slightly but is still near its recent 11-week high; shares of a U.S.-based aluminum company fell after a Reuters report that the company knowingly supplied flammable panels for use in Grenfell Tower and the European Union is considering retaliatory measures if the U.S. places tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

Copper Hovers Near 11-Week High

Copper fell on Monday but still hung around its previous 11-week high, Reuters reported, hanging tough amid good news about Chinese demand and potential supply shortages.

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On Friday, LME copper reached its highest price since April 7. According to a report cited by Reuters, a seasonal rise in electricity usage in China is likely to contribute to a rise in demand for the metal.

Arconic Shares Fall After Report Linking Company’s Products to Grenfell

On the heels of the deadly June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in London, metal company Arconic‘s shares are falling after a report indicated the company knowingly provided flammable panels for use in the tower.

According to a Reuters report, emails sent to and from an Arconic sales manager include questions about why the company provided combustible cladding material for use in the building of the tower.

Arconic argued that while it knew the panels would be used for construction of the tower, it was not its role to decide what materials are or aren’t compliant with building codes, the Reuters report says.

Shares of Arconic dropped 6% early Monday, CNBC reported.

EU Considers Response to Potential U.S. Tariffs

While China is the primary target of the U.S.’s Section 232 investigations into steel and aluminum imports, other countries are preparing for the effects of potential U.S. tariffs.

EU nations are among those concerned about a trade policy readjustment from the Trump administration.

Cecilia Malmström, EU trade commissioner, said the bloc was “making preparations” to respond to the imposition of U.S. tariffs, USA Today reported. She added U.S. tariffs would “unjustifiably hit” EU nations.

The Trump administration launched the investigations in April. The U.S. Department of Commerce held public hearings on the subjects of steel and aluminum imports May 24 and June 22, respectively.

Chinese excess capacity has been the main talking point for U.S. producers, who argue that China is flooding the market with the metals and leading to depression of prices and, as a result, job losses and plant closures in the U.S.

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The trade commissioner also said the EU would study any actions by the Trump administration to determine if they are in line with World Trade Association rules.

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Thursday was aluminum’s day in the sun.

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The Department of Commerce’s Section 232 hearing regarding imports of the metal gave domestic aluminum entities across the supply chain a chance to make their concerns heard. The hearing came less than a month after the 232 steel hearing, which was held May 24.

The aluminum hearing kicked off at 9 a.m. Eastern Time, and featured a roster of 32 speakers, including foreign dignitaries.

The full video of the hearing is available on the Department of Commerce’s YouTube page.

The Trump administration launched the Section 232 investigation in April (the last Section 232 investigation took place in 2001, which looked into iron ore and semi-finished steel). Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act gives the president authority to direct the secretary of commerce to investigate whether certain imports have national-security implications. The secretary then provides the president with policy recommendations at the conclusion of the investigation. Regarding the Trump administration’s steel and aluminum 232 investigations, many expect the adoption of tariffs to disincentivize Chinese imports.

Unsurprisingly, Chinese overcapacity and the resulting unfair business environment that a glut of global aluminum creates was a consistent throughline Thursday morning.

Kentucky State Sen. Jim Gooch Jr. was the first to step behind the lectern to speak. U.S. smelters have dwindled since the turn of the century, but Century Aluminum operates two smelters in the Bluegrass State (one in Hawesville, the other in Sebree).

“Once these facilities are shut down, they’re usually gone for good,” he said. “The loss to local employment, tax revenue, technology, skills and expertise are permanent. Unfortunately, we’re already at the tipping point of what’s left of this great industry.”

Also unsurprisingly, Li Xie, who directs the export division of China’s Ministry of Commerce, argued trade regulations are not the answer.

“We believe that unilateral trade restrictions are not conducive to solving the problem of the U.S. and the global aluminum industry,” Xie said.

He also told the panel that Chinese imports do not negatively impact the U.S.’s national security.

“Aluminum products imported from China are general products with civilian uses, such as drillers, packing, roofing, road signs and consumer durables,” he said. “None of these products implicate national security.”

Xie added China has taken measures to eliminate excess capacity. When asked by the panel about specific efforts the Chinese government has taken to cut back on excess capacity, Xie said a written report would be submitted on the subject.

Xie was followed by Talal M. Al Kaissi, of the UAE embassy’s Trade & Commercial Office, and Lurii Stegnii, Russian deputy trade representative.

Heidi Brock, president and CEO of The Aluminum Association, hoped any policies implemented by the Trump administration exempted fellow NAFTA member Canada and European Union nations which have been determined to be market economies — or, as she said during a conference call Wednesday, “play by the rules.”

Similarly, Gerd Gotz, director general of European Aluminum, hoped European producers would not get caught in the crossfire of any trade policy remedies aimed at China.

“We of the European industry believe that addressing the root causes of these problems requires continued joint efforts of the U.S., Canada and Europe,” he said. In the context of the 232 investigation, Gotz asserted European imports are not a threat to national security, and European aluminum producers function under market-economy conditions and without government subsidies.

Robert Scott, director of the Economic Policy Institute, like other industry speakers after him, painted a bleak picture for the domestic industry, which he said is “hanging on only by a thread.”

Between 2000-2017, Chinese primary aluminum production capacity has increased by nearly 1,500%, Scott said.

“Collapsing prices have decimated U.S. primary aluminum production, capacity and employment,” he said, adding that the LME price of aluminum fell 39% between 2007 and 2016.

While most of the speakers identified Chinese overproduction as the primary factor in the U.S. industry’s struggles, some explained that Chinese imports are important — necessary, even — for their companies.

For example, Steve Casey, senior director of procurement for Bemis Company Inc., said there is only one domestic producer of converter foil, and its entire capacity is not enough to meet Bemis’ annual needs.

“Increased prices or quotas for aluminum foil will open the door for imports of finished packaging, resulting in a loss of market share, profitability and ultimately employment,” Casey said.

He continued: “The present Section 232 investigation should not be used to restrict imports of aluminum foil for commercial uses, as the result would be grave economic consequences for the domestic manufacturing facilities of Bemis, other packaging producers and our customers.”

Similarly, Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, said 98% of is aluminum can sheet is sourced domestically, but that imported primary aluminum is essential.

“Tariffs or other measures limiting the importation of primary aluminum, or can sheet, will hurt our economic activities and the jobs our industry supports,” McGreevy said. “Imports of primary aluminum for can sheet manufacturing do not threaten national security.”

Overall, however, the message from the domestic aluminum industry was clear: “something needs to be done about Chinese excess capacity.”

Michael Bless, president and CEO of Century Aluminum, after citing statistics regarding closures of U.S. smelters and employment losses, said what should have been a good era for the domestic industry was not that because of Chinese overcapacity.

“This should have been a healthy period for America’s smelters,” Bless said. “Instead, prices have collapsed due to ever-expanding overproduction led by state-owned and state-invested enterprises inside and outside China.”

While steel has perhaps gotten more of the Section 232 limelight, aluminum is a vital metal with an array of uses — commercial, military and otherwise.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross is expected to announce the findings of the investigations in the near term. Some within the U.S. industry hope policy changes aren’t unnecessarily broad in scope — particularly in terms of which products are relevant to national security — Chinese overcapacity is perceived by most in the industry as a major threat, not just to U.S. producers but to market economies worldwide.

Now, it’s up to the Trump administration to decide what to do about that perceived threat, whether through tariffs, quotas, or a hybrid solution.

Free Download: The June 2017 MMI Report

A Department of Commerce hearing is underway Thursday morning on the subject of the Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports. qingwa/Adobe Stock

This morning in metals news, the Department of Commerce’s Section 232 hearing on aluminum is in progress this morning, the LME is expected to cut its trading fees and London copper rose Thursday as a result of data indicating a global supply deficit.

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Section 232 Hearing on Aluminum Underway This Morning

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s hearing regarding its ongoing Section 232 investigation into aluminum imports started at 8 a.m. CDT Thursday.

Those interested in watching can tune into the live streams on the Department of Commerce’s Facebook or YouTube pages. After a brief break, the hearing is reconvening as of 9:59 a.m. CDT and is scheduled to continue until just after 11 a.m. CDT.

As mentioned earlier this morning, Chinese overcapacity continues to be the primary talking point.

The hearing started with testimony from: Kentucky State Rep. Jim Gooch Jr.; Li Xie, director of Export Division One, People’s Republic of China, Ministry of Commerce; Talal M. Al Kaissi, representative from the Trade & Commercial Office from the Embassy of the U.A.E.; Lurii Stegnii, deputy trade representative from the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in the United States; and Gerd Gotz, director general of European Aluminum.

Gooch Jr.’s state is home to Century Aluminum, which operates two smelters in the Bluegrass State (one in Hawesville, the other in Sebree).

LME Planning to Cut Trading Fees

The LME is planning on cutting its trading fees in the hopes of boosting volumes, Reuters reported Thursday.

According to the report, a 35% fee hike in January 2015 is a major reason cited by those in the industry to explain declining LME volumes.

Overall volumes in the five months to the end of May this year fell more than 5% from the same five-month period in 2016, according to the article.

LME Copper Ticks Up

LME copper rose Thursday, driven by data showing a global supply deficit, according to Reuters.

According to the data, the global world refined copper market showed a deficit of 5,000 tons in March, Reuters reported. That figure stands in stark contrast with the 102,000-ton surplus reported for February.

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Meanwhile, three-month LME copper was down 0.6%, according to Reuters.

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