The U.S. Department of Commerce has concluded that steel imports have an adverse effect on national security and harm American steel producers, such as Nucor in Auburn. 

The findings are detailed in a report released Friday following the conclusion of the agency's Section 232 investigation. Section 232 refers to a portion of the Trade Expansion Act which allows the Commerce Department to investigate the impact of imports on national security.

What the Commerce Department found is that the United States is the largest importer of steel in the world. The country's imports are nearly four times the amount of exports, according to the report. China leads in steel producing and exporting. 

There is 700 million tons of global excess steel capacity. China, as the largest steel-producing country, is the largest source of excess steel capacity. The report explains that China produces nearly as much steel in one month than the U.S. does in a year. 

The Commerce Department's investigation links steel imports to the U.S. steel industry's struggles. Employment in the steel industry has declined by 35 percent since 1998. 

The federal government has taken action against the dumping of subsidized steel imports from other countries, including China. As of Feb. 15, there are 169 antidumping and countervailing duty orders on steel imports. Twenty-nine of the orders apply to Chinese imports. 

There are three main recommendations outlined in the report, which has been submitted to President Donald Trump. The Commerce Department recommended a tariff of at least 24 percent on steel imports from all countries or a 53 percent tariff on steel imports from 12 countries, including Brazil, China, Russia and Turkey.

The targeted quota would include a quota by product on steel imports from other countries that would be equal to 100 percent of their 2017 exports to the U.S., according to the report. 

Another recommendation is to impose a quota on all steel products from all countries that would be equal to 63 percent of each country's 2017 exports to the U.S. 

The recommendations could boost the U.S. steel industry. The Commerce Department estimated that each of the recommendations could help increase domestic steel production from its current level of 73 percent capacity to 80 percent capacity.

The Commerce Department notes that no final decision has been made. Trump take action based on the recommendations he receives, or he may opt not to take any action. 

Trump must make a decision 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. "I look forward to his decision on any potential course of action." 

The Section 232 investigations, which also examined the impact of aluminum imports on the domestic industry, lasted months. Ross said in June last year that the investigations would be concluded "very shortly." He revealed in January that the inquiries were over. 

The delay frustrated some elected officials, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Schumer, D-N.Y., blocked two Trump nominees for posts within the Commerce Department because of the stalled investigations. 

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