Despite howls of protest from consumers, the Biden administration has doubled down on the Trump administration’s trade barriers with its latest move on aluminum tariffs.
The administration recently slapped semi-finished flat rolled aluminium anti-dumping duties on 18 countries supplying the US market.
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Previous administrations’ focus on China — first on extrusions in 2011 and then foil and sheet in 2018 — succeeded in bringing down imports from 620,000 metric tons in 2017 to 170,000 tons last year, Reuters reported.
However, the wider Section 232 10% tariff is so riddled with exclusions and special exemptions that imports from the rest of the world have continued to make up a significant proportion of the market supply landscape.
Imports of sheet, plate and strip totaled 1.3 million metric tons in 2019. That represented about 62% of total aluminum product imports that year, according to Reuters. Although volumes shrunk sharply to 836,000 tons last year, this was due to the broader COVID-19 disruption to the U.S. manufacturing sector.
Total semis imports last year fell by 20%. Domestic shipments dropped by only 13% through November, suggesting the imposition of preliminary duties in October was already impacting buyers’ decisions.
According to Reuters, the new duties hit seven of last year’s top 10 product suppliers to the U.S. market, including South Korea, Germany and Turkey.
Canada, Saudi Arabia avoid aluminum tariff
The duties spared Canada, however, from which imports increased by 17%. They also spared Saudi Arabia, where Alcoa retains a close relationship with the Ma’aden smelter and rolling mill, despite having divested its 25.1% shareholding in 2019.
That Alcoa and its Saudi partner should essentially get an exemption comes as no surprise.