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Imports skyrocket by 42 percent in March

Multiple-ton coils of steel are unloaded in 2015 from the cargo ship Selinda by workers at the Logistec USA terminal at the state pier in New London, Conn. Imports climbed in March despite the imposition of tariffs.

The administration said it would impose sweeping steel tariffs at the beginning of March, but it didn't do much to deter the influx of steel imports.

Permits for steel imports surged nearly 42 percent in March, according to the U.S. Commerce Department’s most recent Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis data.

The American Iron and Steel Institute reported that steel import permit applications totaled 3.4 million tons in March, a 41.6 percent increase over February. Imports of finished steel totaled 2.5 million tons, a 32.1 percent increase over February.

The tariffs were imposed on March 8, but the administration carved out exemptions for most of the major suppliers of imported steel.

Imports, which have supplanted much of the market share that once belonged to American steelmakers, captured 26 percent of the market share in March and 25 percent of the market share so far this year.

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So far this year, the United States has imported 8.7 million tons of steel, down 2.6 percent compared to the same period in 2016. Imports of finished steel fell 2.2 percent to 6.7 million tons over the same period.

Over the first three months of 2018, imports of oil country goods have risen by 44 percent, hot-rolled sheets by 31 percent, plates in coils by 29 percent, mechanical tubing by 26 percent, hot rolled bars by 16 percent and line pipe by 11 percent.

Outside of North America, the largest offshore suppliers of steel to America during the first three months of 2018 have been South Korea, Japan and Turkey.

In March, imports from South Korea increased by 31 percent, from Turkey by 233 percent, from Japan by 67 percent, from Russia by 135 percent and from Taiwan by 18 percent.

Imports of reinforcing bars grew by 338 percent, standard rails by 107 percent, plates in coils by 56 percent, standard pipe by 45 percent, oil country goods by 42 percent, cold rolled sheets by 41 percent, mechanical tubing by 39 percent, sheets and strip galvanized hot dipped by 35 percent, hot rolled sheets by 33 percent, structural pipe and tubing by 26 percent and line pipe 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.