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Steel imports rose by 15 percent in 2017

An ArcelorMittal Riverdale steelworker monitors a hot strip of steel during the descale process. Imports of steel rose by 15 percent last year.

The year 2017 started with optimism that a new administration would crack down on the imports of foreign-made steel that have bedeviled the U.S. steel industry in recent years, a hopefulness that was strengthened by the launch of a Section 232 investigation into whether imports threatened national security.

But the promised crackdown never happened. 

Instead, steel imports — already at historic levels — rose by 15 percent.

The American Iron and Steel Institute reported that the United States imported 38.1 million tons of steel last year, a 15.4 percent increase over 2016. That included 29.5 million tons of finished steel products, a 12.2 percent jump over 2016.

Last year, imports of oil country goods skyrocketed by 196 percent, while line pipe shot up by 63 percent. Imports of standard pipe rose by 40 percent, mechanical tubing by 30 percent, hot rolled bars by 23 percent, cold rolled sheets by 16 percents, sheets and strip all other metallic coatings by 15 percent and sheets and strip hot dipped galvanized by 10 percent.

Finished steel imports captured 28 percent of the overall market share, the AISI estimates.

In 2017, South Korean exported 3.7 million tons of steel to the United States, down 2 percent. Imports from Turkey fell by 9 percent to 2.1 million tons last year, while imports from Japan dropped 16 percent to 1.5 million tons. Germany exported 1.4 million tons of steel into the United States in 2017, an 18 percent increase. Taiwan sent 15 percent more steel to the United States, more than 1.24 million tons.

In December, the United States imported 2.4 tons of steel, an 11.4 percent decrease and about 22 percent of the overall market share.


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.