WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday recommended an array of stiff tariffs and other tough trade actions on imports of steel and aluminum from China and other nations, saying the influx of foreign metals has compromised national security.
In a call with reporters Friday, Wilbur Ross, the secretary of commerce, laid out a variety of recommendations for President Trump to choose from, including a 24 percent tariff on all steel imports from all countries.
The scope and severity of any trade action will ultimately be determined by President Trump, who has broad authority to decide whether to impose tariffs or quotas, and what countries should face them. Those measures, which could be announced in the following weeks, are aimed at saving American steel and aluminum producers, who have struggled to compete with a flood of cheap metals from abroad, particularly from China.
The Commerce Department, in a report published on Friday, proposed a 53 percent tariff on all steel products from 12 countries, including China, Brazil, India, South Korea, and Vietnam. All other countries would be subject to a quota equal to the amount of their exports to the United States in 2017. He proposed a final alternative that involved no tariffs, but a quota on all steel products from all countries equal to 63 percent of their exports to the United States in 2017.
For aluminum, the secretary presented a similar array of three options. The first was a 7.7 percent tariff on all countries and all products. The second was a 23.6 percent tariff on China, Hong Kong, Russia, Venezuela and Vietnam, with all other countries subject to a quota equal to the amount they exported the United States in 2017. The third alternative was a quota on all imports from all countries of up to 86.7 percent of their 2017 exports to the United States.
Any action to limit imports is likely to end up raising the price of steel, which could destabilize American industries from automakers to food packagers. Tough trade measures could also sow discord and provoke retaliation among America’s allies abroad.
There would be a 90-day appeal period allowing American companies to request exceptions, Mr. Ross said.
The statement came in a highly anticipated report released Friday morning by the Commerce Department, the result of twin investigations launched last April into whether steel and aluminum imports were threatening national security.
The president has not yet announced what he will do as a result of the investigation. But in remarks to lawmakers on Tuesday, he said that the United States was considering tariffs, quotas or both. “You may have a higher price, but you have jobs,” Mr. Trump told the bipartisan group.
The Trump administration has argued that steel and aluminum imports are compromising national security by threatening the viability of American manufacturers who make planes, armored vehicles and other products for the military. It chose to launch the investigation into steel and aluminum imports under a little used provision of trade law that relates specifically to national security concerns, and gives the president broad leeway to act.
Supporters of the trade action, including steel companies like United States Steel, Nucor and ArcelorMittal, as well as the United Steelworkers union, say American metal makers badly need the White House to step in and halt the flood of cheap imports, which has depressed the price for steel and aluminum. But the investigation has also prompted pushback from allies, including in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, who argue that they support the United States militarily, rather than harm it.
Dramatically remaking American trade has been one of Mr. Trump’s defining political promises. But his first year in office delivered a mixed record on trade accomplishments. He withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an Obama-era trade deal, and began renegotiating trade pacts with South Korea, Canada and Mexico, though those talks now look likely to take longer than he anticipated.
The administration is also weighing a series of trade cases this year that would protect American industries against imports. In January, the Trump administration decided to impose tariffs on washing machines and solar cells and modules to help domestic industry. It has also launched an investigation into China’s alleged infringement of American intellectual property that could result in investment restrictions or further tariffs.