Falls Church, VA - Steel imports crept up 2.4 percent from April to May, and the monthly total was nearly one-fifth higher than a year earlier.
The 3.4 million net tons of imports in May included 566,000 net tons from both Canada and Brazil, with imports from the latter country having spiked 77.2 percent from April and increased 18 percent from May 2016. The total from Canada was up 8.2 percent from the previous month and 11.7 percent from the previous May. Imports from the European Union totaled 477,000 net tons, a 14.1 percent decrease from April but a 26.2 percent increase from May of last year. Imports from South Korea totaled 329,000 net tons, a monthly increase of 3.1 percent but a decrease of 6.4 percent from a year earlier.
Through the first five months of the year, imports were up 22.1 percent at 15.7 million net tons compared to the same time in 2016. That total included 2.7 million net tons from Canada (a 13.2 percent increase), 2.1 million net tons from Brazil (a 15.2 percent increase), 1.9 million net tons from the European Union (an 11.8 percent increase), and 1.5 million net tons from South Korea (a 3.1 percent decrease).
Semifinished imports totaled 859,000 net tons in May, 8.9 percent higher than a year earlier. Year-to-date, semifinished imports were up 58.3 percent at 3.7 million net tons.
The Department of Commerce is expected to release the findings of its Section 232 investigation of the impact of steel imports on national security soon. If the agency endorses the implementation of protectionist measures, those recommendations will likely find a welcome reception in the White House, where the normally pro-business President Trump still, unfortunately, misunderstands the positive role that free and fair trade in steel has in promoting the nation’s economic health. Any limits on trade will surely be met with retaliatory measures from trading partners who count on the United States to model the free market principles that produce growth nationally and globally. The decisions that are made following the release of the report will have the potential to shake the steel import sector, but those tremors would be felt throughout the economy.