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Steelmaker optimistic after tariffs on washing machines and solar panels

A worker signals to pour the molten steel into the furnace at a steel factory in Anshan in northeast China's Liaoning province in 2007. U.S. steelmakers are hoping the administration slaps more tariffs on foreign-made steel.

New tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels have given U.S. steelmakers renewed hope of a crackdown on steel dumping at a time when imports captured a near-record 27 percent of the market share.

Steel prices and stocks have rebounded this year in anticipation that a Section 232 investigation into whether foreign-made steel poses a threat to national security will result in more tariffs, or possibly even quotas or bans.

“We are pleased to see the president's action on products critical to American manufacturing and energy production," U.S. Steel said in a statement. "We are hopeful the President will similarly use his authority to establish a broad Section 232 remedy targeting steel imports that threaten U.S. national security by undermining our industry, economic competitiveness and the industrial foundation on which our manufacturing sector rests. We believe broad and decisive action against the multitude of foreign producers is fundamental to protecting our national security and American jobs.”

The United States already imposes more than 190 antidumping and countervailing duties in place on steel from 33 countries, as high as 500 percent on some Chinese-made steel, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. But import rates remain near the historic highs that hobbled the U.S. steel industry in the early 2000s and led to mass layoffs and mill idlings in 2015.

The domestic steel industry sees reason for optimism with the 20 percent tariff on imports of solar panels and the 50 percent tariff on washing machines.

"These workers and manufacturers make some of the best products in the world and have been innovation leaders. But they cannot compete against surging unfair imports from countries like China, which are dumping product into the United States in an attempt to put American companies out of business and control the global marketplace," Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said. "Now that President Trump has taken action in these high profile cases, we hope that he also will keep his promise to defend American-made steel and aluminum and act on the Section 232 investigations by the end of January."

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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.