Trump Reiterates Plans Steel Import Curbs

By Jacob M. Schlesinger Features Dow Jones Newswires

President Donald Trump reiterated that he is planning to impose fresh curbs on steel imports, though he didn't elaborate on when he would move forward with the delayed action.

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"Steel is a big problem," Mr. Trump told reporters during a flight Wednesday to France. "We're like a dumping ground...And I'm stopping it."

Asked what type of measures he would use, the president said "there are two ways -- quotas and tariffs. Maybe I'll do both."

Mr. Trump's comments, which weren't made public until Thursday afternoon, were made in response to questions from reporters traveling with him to Paris to join French President Emmanuel Macro for a Bastille Day celebration.

Mr. Trump and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced in late April that they would study the possibility of imposing new steel import limits in the name of "national security," and had said repeatedly that they would do so by the end of June.

But the process has gotten bogged down amid debates among Mr. Trump's aides, as well as strong pushback from U.S. trading partners, as well U.S. consumers of steel.

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In his comments Wednesday, Mr. Trump didn't say when he would impose the new measures, nor did he say how broadly they would be applied. Many steel exporters have lobbied the administration to be exempted from the measures.

Many analysts said that any U.S. tariffs would be ineffective at addressing the broader problem afflicting the steel industry -- massive Chinese overcapacity that is dragging down global prices -- because the U.S. already has imposed tight limits on Chinese steel imports and currently buys very little steel directly from Chinese manufacturers.

In his remarks, Mr. Trump suggested he would impose the new limits on China and other trading partners, saying the problem is "not only China, but others." But he didn't say which other countries would face the tariffs or quotas, or if any countries would be exempted.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross briefed senators on the options for steel barriers.

"He clearly believes that the president should get a menu of options," said Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, which oversees trade.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), who backs strong measures to combat China's steel overcapacity, said Mr. Ross is hoping to announce a plan to address steel imports in the next week, depending on the White House.

Some officials in the Trump administration are said to oppose broad tariffs on steel, fearing economic fallout, retaliation from trading partners and diplomatic setbacks.

In his comments to reporters, Mr. Trump also indicated he would ramp up trade pressure more generally on China in advance of high-level economic meetings scheduled in Washington, D.C., for next week.

"We are being absolutely devastated by bad trade deals," he said, adding that "the worst of all [our] trade deals is with China."

During his comments, Mr. Trump also highlighted plans, announced this week, to try to amend the five-year-old free-trade agreement with South Korea.

"We have a bad deal with South Korea," he said, citing the growth in the U.S. trade deficit with that country since the pact was signed. "It's a horrible deal. So we're starting...renegotiating the deal with South Korea. We have to."

--William Mauldin contributed to this article.

Write to Jacob M. Schlesinger at jacob.schlesinger@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 13, 2017 18:04 ET (22:04 GMT)