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Steel imports rose 12 percent in April and have captured 26 percent of the market share this year despite tariffs intended to strengthen the domestic steel industry.

Preliminary U.S. Census Bureau data reports the United States imported 3.7 million tons in April, a 12.1 percent increase over March.

That included 2.8 million tons of finished steel products that wouldn't require any further processing in America, such as at service centers or the steel shops in the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor. Imports of finished steel products rose 15.1 percent in April, capturing 29 percent of the market share, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The much-hyped Section 232 tariffs intended to stop a flood of cheap foreign steel went into effect in late March, but the administration carved out exemptions for Canada, Mexico and the European Union that remained in effect until last week.

Imported steel has captured 26 percent of the U.S. market share so far this year. 

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Through the first four months of the year, the United States has imported 12.4 million tons of steel, a 1.1 percent increase over the same period in 2017. Imports of finished steel have risen 2.3 percent to 9.6 million tons so far this year, as compared to the same period last year.

The biggest offshore exporters of steel to the United States have been South Korea, Japan, Turkey, Germany and Taiwan through the end of April. So far this year, imports are up 17 percent from South Korea and 21 percent from Germany.

So far this year, imports of plates in coils have risen by 43 percent, hot rolled sheets by 40 percent, line pipe by 31 percent, oil country goods by 25 percent, mechanical tubing by 23 percent and hot rolled bars by 12 percent.

In April, imports of line pipe rose 87 percent, heavy structural shapes by 57 percent, tin plate by 53 percent, reinforcing bars by 47 percent, hot rolled bars by 39 percent, sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized by 24 percent, sheets and strip all other metallic coatings by 23 percent, standard pipe by 20 percent, cut lengths plates by 16 percent and plates in coils by 11 percent.

Imports rose month-over-month by 64 percent from Germany, 61 percent from Vietnam, 49 percent from South Korea and 46 percent from Taiwan.

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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.