Trump administration hits 18 countries with hefty aluminum tariffs

This file photo taken on August 14, 2008, shows the aluminum refinery plant of Brazil's mining company Vale, in Barcarena, some 110 km southwest from Para's northern capital of Belem, Brazil. (By AFP)

The US administration has imposed a new round of hefty tariffs on nearly two billion dollars worth of aluminum sheet products from 18 countries accused by Washington of dumping into the American market.

The tariffs - amounting to $1.96 billion - mark the broadest trade enforcement action by Washington in more than two decades.

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said Friday the tariffs were being immediately imposed on Germany and Bahrain, although the department’s determination that there was dumping was preliminary.

Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, Oman, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and Turkey were also affected, he said.

The US International Trade Commission would make the final determination in February 2021, he added.

The US official said China was not on the list as US tariffs had already been imposed on Beijing's aluminum products, which led to “Chinese excess capacity” that replaced production in other countries and culminated in dumping in the United States.

"What's really been happening, actually, is Chinese excess capacity has been dumped into other markets. That, in turn, displaces production which gets dumped here," Ross told Fox Business Network.

"It's a very complicated setup but the net effect is a lot of dumping in the US, and that's what we're clamping down on," he added.

"This is the largest and most far-reaching case that our department has brought in more than 20 years," Ross noted.

Germany and Brazil are the two countries that faced the steepest tariffs of close to 353 percent and 137 percent, respectively, with Washington importing nearly $287 million of the product from Germany last year, and $97 million from Brazil.

Ross said a spike in US consumption of certain products amid the coronavirus pandemic, such as recreational vehicles and boats, had increased the importance of aluminum sheet pricing.

Washington says tariffs on such commodities as steel and aluminum aim to help strengthen US production, and thus, boost national security.

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