Trump targets aluminum in week of trade tensions


In a week full of trade discord, US President Donald Trump vowed Thursday to take action to boost the American aluminum industry which has been "unfairly damaged" by imports.

The industry is "critical" to the defense industry," Trump said at the White House.

"We can't afford to become dependent on foreign nations for the aluminum that our military relies on."

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced an investigation into aluminum imports.

That followed a similar probe launched last week into steel, and comes in a week where Trump has escalated tensions with Canada over lumber imports, and dairy exports, and then announced plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, and threatened to pull out entirely unless there is a "fair deal."

Trump again pledged to bring back jobs in the aluminum industry and boost production.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross late Wednesday announced the probe into aluminum imports, which he said climbed 16 percent in 2016, while production had declined.

And like the steel probe, China will again be in the spotlight.

"China subsidies have created overcapacity," Ross said.

Like steel, this investigation also will be carried out under a little-used law -- Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act -- which invokes national defense reasons to protect US production. This was used primarily in the 1970s, during the oil crisis, and more recently in 2001 for steel.

It gives the Commerce Department 270 days to investigate the issue and draft its findings after consulting with the Pentagon. The president then will have 90 days to decide whether to take any actions, which could include high tariffs on aluminum imports.

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