mars 09 2018

U.S. Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum Imports


On March 8, 2018, President Trump ordered the imposition of 25 percent tariffs on imports of steel and 10 percent tariffs on aluminum imports.  Scheduled to enter into effect in 15 days, the tariffs cover a broad range of steel and aluminum products and apply equally to imports from most countries.  The order exempts imports from Canada and Mexico, at least temporarily.

The president reached his decision following the submission of separate reports by the Commerce Department (both of which were released publicly on February 16, 2018), under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, finding “that the present quantities and circumstances” of both steel and aluminum imports “are ‘weakening our internal economy’ and threaten to impair the national security as defined in Section 232.”  In response, on March 1, President Trump announced his intention to impose tariffs, as recommended by Commerce.

Section 232 is a rarely used trade provision dating back to 1962.  Pursuant to the provision, upon receiving a Commerce Department report recommending action, the president may impose “import-adjusting measures” regarding the subject articles, including increased tariffs, import quotas and tariff-rate quotas.  Section 232 does not limit the level of tariff increases or the scope of other measures that may be imposed.  It also does not preclude imposing greater restrictions on imports from certain countries or even no restrictions at all on one or more countries.  Commerce has completed 13 previous Section 232 investigations.

Included in the product scope of the steel order are “steel mill products,” all of which Commerce described in its steel report as being produced by U.S. steel companies and supporting “various applications across the defense, critical infrastructure, and commercial sectors.”  Commerce identified five steel product categories, described as “including but not limited to” carbon and alloy flat products (including sheets, strips and plates); carbon and alloy long products (including bars, rails, rods and beams); carbon and alloy pipe and tube products (including either seamless or welded); carbon and alloy semi-finished products (including blooms, billets, slabs, ingots, and steel for castings); and stainless products (including in flat-rolled, long, pipe and tube, and semi-finished forms).

The scope of the aluminum tariffs includes all imported primary (unwrought) aluminum, which is aluminum produced from raw materials, and numerous downstream products, including aluminum bars, rods and profiles; wire; plates, sheets and strips of a thickness exceeding 0.2 mm; foil of a thickness not exceeding 0.2 mm; tubes and pipes; tube and pipe fittings; and castings and forgings.  Aluminum waste, scrap and powders are excluded from the tariffs.

The complete scope of covered steel and aluminum products, including relevant tariff headings, is set forth below. 

The president’s order imposing the tariffs also includes a mechanism for U.S. parties to apply for exclusion of specific products based on demand that is unmet by domestic production or on specific national security considerations.  Finally, the order states: “Any country with which we have a security relationship is welcome to discuss with the United States alternative ways to address the threatened impairment of the national security caused by imports from that country.”  Should the United States and “any such country arrive at a satisfactory alternative means to address the threat to the national security,” such that the president determines “imports from that country no longer threaten to impair the national security,” the order provides that the restriction on steel and aluminum imports from that country may be removed or modified.  If necessary, the order continues, the United States may “make any corresponding adjustments to the tariff as it applies to other countries as our national security interests require.” 

Scope of Steel Products

The tariffs imposed by the president apply to steel mill products (“steel”) that are defined at the Harmonized System (“HS”) 6-digit level as: 720610 through 721650, 721699 through 730110, 730210, 730240 through 730290, and 730410 through 730690, including any subsequent revisions to these HS codes. The following discontinued HS codes have been included for purposes of reporting historical data (prior to 2007): 722520, 722693, 722694, 722910, 730410, 730421, 730610, 730620 and 730660.

According to Commerce’s Section 232 report, these steel products are all produced by U.S. steel companies and support various applications across the defense, critical infrastructure and commercial sectors. Generally, these products fall into one of the following five product categories (including but not limited to):

(1)   Carbon and Alloy Flat Products (Flat Products): Produced by rolling semi-finished steel through varying sets of rolls; includes sheets, strips and plates.

Flat products are covered under the following 6-digit HS codes: 

720810, 720825, 720826, 720827, 720836, 720837, 720838, 720839, 720840, 720851, 720852, 720853, 720854, 720890, 720915, 720916, 720917, 720918, 720925, 720926, 720927, 720928, 720990, 721011, 721012, 721020, 721030, 721041, 721049, 721050, 721061, 721069, 721070, 721090, 721113, 721114, 721119, 721123, 721129, 721190, 721210, 721220, 721230, 721240, 721250, 721260, 722511, 722519, 722530, 722540, 722550, 722591, 722592, 722599, 722611, 722619, 722691, 722692, 722693, 722694, 722699 


(2)  Carbon and Alloy Long Products (Long Products): Steel products that fall outside the flat products category; includes bars, rails, rods and beams.

Long products are covered under the following 6-digit HS codes:

721310, 721320, 721391, 721399, 721410, 721420, 721430, 721491, 721499, 721510, 721550, 721590, 721610, 721621, 721622, 721631, 721632, 721633, 721640, 721650, 721699, 721710, 721720, 721730, 721790, 722520, 722620, 722710, 722720, 722790, 722810, 722820, 722830, 722840, 722850, 722860, 722870, 722880, 722910, 722920, 722990, 730110, 730210, 730240, 730290


(3)   Carbon and Alloy Pipe and Tube Products (Pipe and Tube Products): Either seamless or welded pipe and tube products; may include stainless as well as alloy other than stainless.

Pipe and tube products are covered under the following 6-digit HS codes:

730410, 730419, 730421, 730423, 730429, 730431, 730439, 730451, 730459, 730490, 730511, 730512, 730519, 730520, 730531, 730539, 730590, 730610, 730619, 730620, 730629, 730630, 730650, 730660, 730661, 730669, 730690

(4)   Carbon and Alloy Semi-finished Products (Semi-finished Products): The initial, intermediate solid forms of molten steel that will be re-heated and further forged, rolled, shaped or otherwise worked into finished steel products; includes blooms, billets, slabs, ingots, and steel for castings.

Semi-finished products are covered under the following 6-digit HS codes:

720610, 720690, 720711, 720712, 720719, 720720, 722410, 722490

(5)   Stainless Products: Steel products, in flat-rolled, long, pipe and tube, and semi-finished forms, containing at minimum 10.5 percent chromium and, by weight, 1.2 percent or less of carbon, offering better corrosion resistance than other steel.

Stainless steel products are covered under the following 6-digit HS codes:

721810, 721891, 721899, 721911, 721912, 721913, 721914, 721921, 721922, 721923, 721924, 721931, 721932, 721933, 721934, 721935, 721990, 722011, 722012, 722020, 722090, 722100, 722211, 722219, 722220, 722230, 722240, 722300, 730411, 730422, 730424, 730441, 730449, 730611, 730621, 730640

Scope of Aluminum Products

Consistent with Commerce’s Section 232 report, the tariffs imposed by the president apply to aluminum products at the Harmonized Schedule (“HS”) 4-digit level, as listed in the table below. In addition, two HS codes at the 10-digit level are included, covering aluminum castings and forgings.

Harmonized Schedule for Aluminum Products

HS Code



Unwrought aluminum


Aluminum bars, rods and profiles


Aluminum wire


Aluminum plates, sheets and strip of a thickness exceeding 0.2mm*


Aluminum foil (whether or not printed, or backed with paper, paperboard, plastics or similar backing materials) of a thickness (excluding any backing) not exceeding 0.2mm


Aluminum tubes and pipes


Aluminum tube and pipe fittings


Other articles of aluminum: castings


Other articles of aluminum: forgings

*Note: This category includes can sheet for aluminum can packaging.

Source: U.S. International Trade Commission

The scope of covered aluminum products does not include bauxite or alumina, which are feedstocks for production of primary (unwrought) aluminum.  Also excluded are aluminum waste and scrap (HS 7602) and aluminum powders and flakes (HS 7603), as these represent different industrial sectors.

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