US President Donald Trump was yesterday to sign a directive asking for a speedy probe into whether imports of foreign-made steel are hurting US national security, two administration officials said on Wednesday.
Trump is to sign the memorandum related to Section 232 of the US’ Trade Expansion Act of 1962 at a White House event that is expected to include leaders of some US steel companies.
The law allows the president to impose restrictions on imports for reasons of national security.
There are national security implications, one of the officials said, from imports of steel alloys that are used in products such as the armor plating of warships and require a lot of expertise to create and produce.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross launched the probe on Wednesday night.
Trump’s directive would ask Ross to conduct it “with all deliberate speed and deliver the results to the president with his recommendations,” a second official said.
The move is another step in Trump’s “America First” policies, in which he has tried to boost US manufacturers and preserve US jobs. It comes as he tries to coax China into taking a more active role in reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The first official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the directive is not aimed at a specific country, but is “product oriented.”
He said there is concern when a domestic industry is hurt by imports from a foreign entity “that hampers our ability to maintain production and maintain the expertise necessary for these high national security concerned products, specific alloys and so forth.”
Separately, SAIC Motor Corp Ltd (上海汽車), China’s biggest automaker by sales, has halted a plan to export its own branded vehicles to the US until it gets more clarity on Sino-US trade policy under Trump.
SAIC Motor, which has joint ventures with General Motors Co and Volkswagen AG in China, has been exporting Chinese-made Buick Envision sport utility vehicles to North America since May last year.
The Shanghai-based company, which owns the MG and Roewe brands, has said it has been making preparations to enter the US — the world’s second-biggest auto market — on its own.
“Eventually we aim to have all, but at the moment we are focusing on” China and then Europe, SAIC Motor international department executive director Michael Yang said at a media briefing at the Auto Shanghai trade show on Wednesday. “The reason is the ‘climate change’ after the new presidency.”
However, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co (廣州汽車集團) is pressing ahead with a plan to start sales of its Trumpchi (傳祺) brand in the US.
Guangzhou Automobile, the sixth-largest automaker in China by volume, is “actively preparing” to establish its research center in the US while conducting a preliminary study of the North American market, Trumpchi general manager Yu Jun said at Auto Shanghai.
The manufacturer aims to enter the US no later than 2019 to help build Trumpchi into an international brand, he said.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg