US raises national security issue to curb aluminium imports

The United states is launching an investigation into the steady rise in aluminum imports from countries like Russia and China which is threatening local production and thereby national security as well, commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said on Wednesday.

Briefing reporters in the White House, Ross said the US administration is "reacting to real world conditions" where a steady rise in imports of aluminum over the past few years has resulted in job losses and plant closures in the US.

''Imports have been flooding into the aluminum industry,'' Ross said, adding that President Trump is making good on his vow to get tough on trade, during his run for the White House.

So ''this follows quite logically that he is following through with his campaign promises.''

Obviously, Trump is trying to show some progress his promised trade policy initiatives as the end of his first 100 days in office approaches, say commentators.

Ross said this is the second national security study that Trump has recently ordered and that more industries such as semiconductors where imports are increasing at a faster pace would be under the lens.

Trump had last week called on Ross to investigate whether steel imports from countries like China are jeopardizing national security.

These investigations are closely linked to Trump's plans to build up the military infrastructure. It is perceived that the arbitrary use of imported parts or material could endanger US defence production.

The president will sign the latest order today to determine whether tariffs need to be levied.

There is increasing concern over the deluge of aluminium imports into the country as the US currently has only one smelter that produces high-purity aluminum used for building planes such as the F-35, F-18 and C-17 as well as armor plating for military vehicles and some missiles, Ross aid.

"It's very, very dangerous, obviously from a national defence point of view, to only have one supplier of an absolutely critical material," he told reporters.

He noted that the one plant remaining had already filed a trade case against dumping.

Overall, eight smelters have closed or curbed production since 2015, in response to the foreign influx of aluminum, Ross said.

While Ross criticised China's role for depressing the global aluminum market, he maintained that the latest investigation isn't ''China-phobic'' and that countries such as Russia and Canada sell significant amounts of steel here.

China accounts for only 6.2 per cent of all aluminum imports compared with, for example, Russia's 12.2 per cent.

Still Canada easily leads the way, sending in more than 3 million of the 6.5 million tonnes the US imported last year, significantly more than Russia or China.