U.S. Steel Imports Shoot Up in January, Drop Y/Y on Tariffs

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U.S. steel imports dropped year over year in January but shot up on a monthly comparison basis – according to the latest report from the American Iron and Steel Institute (“AISI”), an association of North American steelmakers.

According to the AISI, total and finished domestic steel imports are down 9.9% and 33.4% year over year, respectively, in January to roughly 3.14 million net tons and 1.63 million net tons, respectively.

However, total and finished domestic steel imports surged 97.7% and 20.4%, respectively, from December 2019. The AISI noted that these figures are based on preliminary Census Bureau data.

Finished steel import market share was 17% for the reported month. For December, finished steel import market share was estimated at 15%.

The surge in imports on a monthly comparison basis was partly due to a significant spike in imports from Brazil.

President Trump, in early December 2019, announced that he is restoring tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Brazil and Argentina. Trump accused these countries of devaluing their currencies which hurt American farmers. The White House had exempted these two countries from the tariffs in 2018 as they continued to negotiate over trade terms. However, the Trump administration later in December backtracked on its decision to reimpose tariffs on Brazilian imports. Brazil is a major exporter of steel to the United States. Tariffs on Argentine steel were also not being enforced.

Per the AISI, the biggest offshore suppliers for January were South Korea with 182,000 net tons (up 8% from December), Brazil with 88,000 net tons (up 579%), Japan with 76,000 net tons (up 14%), Spain with 55,000 net tons (up 79%), and Turkey with 51,000 net tons (up 606%).

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