Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross offers Trump a wide range of options, including higher tariffs, to fight steel and aluminum dumping

Key Points
  • Sources told CNBC that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's reports on steel and aluminum dumping includes an array of recommendations.
  • The suggestions range from higher tariffs to specifically targeting "bad actors" involved in trade of the metals.
  • Trump has 90 days to review the recommendations and decide to act.
Wilbur Ross
David A. Grogan | CNBC

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has recommended to President Donald Trump a wide range of options to deal with aluminum and steel dumping in the U.S., including potentially higher tariffs, sources told CNBC.

The options also include specifically targeting "bad actors" in other countries that are active in imports of the metals.

Trump and his administration announced the Section 232 investigation into steel and aluminum in April 2017. The investigation was to determine whether the imports posed a threat to the country's national security.

Trump has 90 days to review the so-called 232 report's findings and recommendations. The president would then decide on what course of action to take.

When he nominated Ross to be Commerce secretary, Trump put the former investor at the forefront of his ambitious, nationalist trade policy. During the election, Trump scored points with an array of working-class voters by saying he would renegotiate trade deals, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which the president has said favored other countries over the U.S.

During his confirmation hearing last year, Ross told senators he considered himself "an activist" for U.S. industries and would be willing to provide "people power" to enable the department to self-initiate anti-dumping and countervailing duty cases.

"By picking strategic cases and initiating them, it will send a message to the people on the other side that we are getting more serious about this," he said at the time.

The Aluminum Association, a trade group, applauded Ross' report.

"Persistent aluminum overcapacity in China is making it impossible for the U.S. aluminum industry to compete on a level playing field," said Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the group. "We very much appreciate the efforts by President Trump and Secretary Ross to advance fair trade and address this long-standing challenge for the aluminum industry."

Since Trump's inauguration just over a year ago, the Commerce department has initiated 84 antidumping and countervailing duty investigations — up from 52 in the previous year.

The news comes a day after Axios, citing sources, reported that Ross had fallen out of favor with Trump, who sidelined the Commerce secretary as the lead voice for the U.S. in trade negotiations. The White House pushed back on that characterization, however.

"The president is excited with the actions that Secretary Ross will be taking on trade in the future," a White House official told CNBC.