Steel imports grabbed 27 percent of the market share in 2017

A worker inspects rolls of coiled steel plate into barge, in the city of Smederevo near Belgrade, Serbia. Foreign-made steel grabbed 27 percent of the market share in 2017.

Darko Vojinovic, Associated Press

Foreign steelmakers applied for permits to import 2.4 million tons of steel in December, a 13.6 percent decrease from permit applications in December 2016, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

That included permits for 1.8 million tons of finished steel that would require no further processing in the United States, by American workers at local service centers or the steel companies at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. That's down 14.6 percent from November.

Tentatively, steel imports totaled 38.1 million tons in 2017, a 15.5 percent increase, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Imports of finished steel rose by an estimated 12.1 percent to 29.5 million tons last year. Those numbers however are tentative estimates based on actual imports to the United States through November and permit applications in December, and likely will be adjusted when the final import numbers for December come through.

The estimated market share for imports was 22 percent in December and 27 percent for the year, close to the all-time high.

The offshore countries that sent the most steel to the United States in 2017, excluding Canada and Mexico, were South Korea, Turkey and Japan, according to AISI. Imports from South Korea, Japan, Germany and The Netherlands all declined in December, falling by as much as 45 percent.

In December, finished steel imports of tool steel rose by 52 percent, heavy structural shapes by 42 percent, tin free steel by 30 percent and mechanical tubing by 11 percent.

In 2017, imports of oil country goods increased by 197 percent, line pipe by 62 percent, standard pipe by 39 percent, mechanical tubing by 30 percent, hot rolled bars by 23 percent, structural pipe and tubing by 19 percent, cold rolled sheets by 15 percent, sheets and strip all other metallic coatings by 13 percent, and sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized by 11 percent.

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Business reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.