US Commerce Department wraps up steel probe, does not detail findings

Key Points
  • The U.S. Commerce Department has completed an investigation on steel product imports
Steel production at US Steel in Gary, Indiana.
Justin Solomon | CNBC

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Thursday it had completed its probe into whether imports of certain steel products threatened U.S. national security and sent its conclusions to President Donald Trump.

In a statement that offered no indication of the investigation's findings, the Commerce Department said Trump now has 90 days to decide "on any potential action."

The probe could lead to broad tariffs or import quotas.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters said in a brief statement that Trump would announce his decision "at the appropriate time."

Trump opened the "Section 232" investigation in April. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross set an internal deadline of end-June for announcing his recommendations, but an announcement was delayed for a G20 summit and bilateral talks with China in July.

Trump said later in July that a final decision could wait until other top priority issues on his agenda were addressed, including healthcare and taxes.

These NAFTA-sensitive stocks are moving on trade talks
These NAFTA-sensitive stocks are moving on trade talks

Steel imports dipped briefly in 2016 because of U.S. anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties imposed on steel products from China and some other countries. Steel imports rose 15.5 percent in 2017, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

In August, senior executives from 25 U.S. steel and steel-related companies sent a letter to Trump asking for immediate import restrictions. The executives from companies including Nucor, U.S. Steel, ArcelorMittal and Commercial Metals said the sustained surge of steel imports into the United States had "hollowed out" much of the domestic steel industry and was threatening its ability to meet national security needs.

Critics charge that using national security to erect steel tariffs could trigger a trade war with China, undermine the global rules-based trading system and hurt U.S. allies more than China and damage global growth prospects.