Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is urging President Donald Trump to adopt recommendations by the U.S. Department of Commerce to crack down on unfair trade practices and take action against aluminum and steel imports.
The Commerce Department conducted investigations to examine whether aluminum and steel imports from China and other countries posed national security risks to the U.S. The inquiries confirmed that was the case, and the Commerce Department recommended several actions to limit aluminum and steel imports.
The agency's report on steel imports found China produces as much steel in a month than U.S. manufacturers do in one year. With imports on the rise, the U.S. steel industry has taken a hit. The number of steel industry jobs has dropped by 35 percent since 1998, according to the Commerce Department.
There have been numerous actions taken to crack down on subsidized steel imports from China and other countries, but the Commerce Department's recommendations would go further. One proposal is to impose a minimum 24 percent tariff on all steel imports. Another suggestion is to impose a minimum 53 percent tariff on steel imports from 12 countries, including China and Russia.
Whether the recommendations are adopted is up to Trump. While the Commerce Department conducted the investigation and reported its findings, the presidential will have the final say on whether any action is taken.
Trump must act by April 11.
"I am glad that we were able to provide this analysis and these recommendations to the president," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Friday. "I look forward to (the president's) decision on any potential course of action."
The Commerce Department's aluminum and steel reports were welcomed by Schumer, who has repeatedly urged the agency to take action against imports.
In June, Ross said the investigations would be completed soon. But the review wasn't completed until January and the findings weren't released until Friday.
"We've been asking over a year for the Trump administration to crack down on China's predatory practices on aluminum and steel," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Monday. "The Commerce Department's recommendations today, we hope, are the beginning of efforts by this administration to finally get tough on China and help level the playing field for American steel and aluminum producers and workers."
While waiting for the investigation to be completed, Schumer placed holds on two Commerce Department nominees. He criticized the delay and questioned whether the Trump administration was serious about cracking down on unfair trade practices.
With the release of the aluminum and steel import recommendations, Schumer said he has released his hold on Gil Kaplan, who was nominated for under secretary of commerce for international trade. He said he will no longer block Kaplan's nomination "as a show of good faith.
However, his hold on the nomination of Nazakhtar Nikakhtar for assistant secretary of commerce, industry and analysis, will continue. He added that he will block other nominees for posts within the Commerce Department until Trump "fully approves these bold actions."