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Steel imports finally start to decline in wake of tariffs

A worker stands outside the U.S. Steel Corp. coke plant, part of the company's complex in Granite City, Illinois, which was closed because of imports and is being restarted because of tariffs. Tariff permit applications declined by 26.3 percent in May.

The much-ballyhooed Section 232 tariffs of 25 percent on much foreign-made steel finally appear to be having an impact on the imports that caused mill idlings, decommissioned blast furnaces, steelworker layoffs and economic anxiety over the last few years.

Steel import permit applications totaled 2.94 million tons in May, a 26.3 percent decrease as compared to April, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis data. It also was a 21.3 percent decline from April preliminary imports of 3.78 million tons.

Permit applications for finished steel products in May fell 17.9 percent to 2.34 million tons, which still accounts for 25 percent of the overall U.S. market share.

So far this year, imports have captured 26 percent of the market share in the United States, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The biggest offshore suppliers this year have been South Korea, Japan and Germany. In May permit applications from offshore countries rose 34 percent from Italy, 25 percent from Japan, and 15 percent from Germany, while dropping 76 percent from South Korea and 34 percent from Taiwan.

Imports of tin-free steel rose 68 percent in May, while imports of wire rods were up by 64 percent, according to AISI. So far this year, imports have increased by 36 percent for hot rolled sheets, 36 percent for plates in coils, 22 percent for mechanical tubing, 22 percent for line pipe and 19 percent for oil country goods.

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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.