President Donald Trump's decision to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports has been endorsed by Nucor in Auburn. 

Drew Wilcox, vice president and general manager of Nucor Steel in Auburn, lauded Trump after the president's announcement Thursday that the U.S. would impose tariffs on steel imports. The decision followed a Commerce Department investigation into whether steel imports are a national security threat

"The president has consistently been a strong advocate for holding other countries accountable that systematically and flagrantly violate international trade agreements and free market principles," Wilcox said. "We are pleased that the president has decided to use all the tools at his disposal to send a clear message to foreign competitors that dumping steel products into our market will no longer be tolerated."

The 25 percent tariff is a slight change from the Commerce Department's recommendation. One of the agency's suggestion outlined in its report released last month was a 24 percent tariff on steel imports from all countries. 

The department offered other recommendations for addressing steel imports, including a 53 percent tariff targeting imports from China, Russia and 10 other countries. But Trump opted for a broader approach. 

National media outlets have reported that Trump preferred 25 instead of 24 percent for the tariffs because 25 is a "round number." 

A formal decision on the tariffs — Trump also said there will be a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports — will come next week. 

Trump's announcement received a mixed reaction from members of Congress. Some Democrats, including Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, praised the decision. There are Republicans who like the approach, but others questioned the tariffs. 

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, claimed the aluminum and steel tariffs would result in a tax increase for American families. 

"Protectionism is weak, not strong," he said. "You'd expect a policy this bad from a leftist administration, not a supposedly Republican one." 

The decision also rattled the stock market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 420 points, with most of that decline occurring after Trump announced the tariffs. 

The European Steel Association criticized the tariffs because of its potential impact on U.S. trade allies in Europe. The group said Trump chose "the most disruptive option" that was recommended by the Commerce Department. 

Axel Eggert, director general of the European Steel Association, said European Union steel exports to the U.S. could be slashed in half. 

"We expect that the tariff could restrict U.S. imports by up to 20 to 25 million tonnes overall," Eggert said. "This would represent a volume representing more than half the total EU imports of 2017 (40 million tonnes)." 

But Trump's focus has been on boosting the American steel industry, which has been negatively impacted by trade and has sustained significant job losses over the past two decades. 

"They used to be a lot bigger, but they're going to be a lot bigger again," he said at the White House Thursday. 

The Commerce Department's report revealed that U.S. steel industry employment has dropped 35 percent since 1998.

In its report, the department estimated that adopting the recommendations could help increase domestic steel production. The current capacity is 73 percent. The agency believes the recommendations could help the American steel industry reach 80 percent capacity. 

"The Commerce Department was correct in concluding that surging imports impair our national security by limiting the ability of our domestic steel industry to supply national defense and critical infrastructure needs, and the president is taking the appropriate response to this threat," Wilcox said. 

Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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