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Trump’s Steel Industry Claims

To hear President Donald Trump tell the story of the U.S. steel industry, it went from “dead” or “going out of business” to “thriving” all because of the 25% tariffs on imported steel he instituted in March 2018. While the tariffs have benefited U.S. steel producers, the reality of the impact isn’t that stark.

Domestic prices went up, for instance, but are now back down below the level they were when Trump was inaugurated. Production has gone up, too, but has been higher as recently as 2014. While the industry has announced several new investments, it’s simply not true that a new mill hadn’t been built in “30 years,” as the president wrongly claimed. Steel and iron mill jobs have increased, but they’re below the pre-Great Recession level. And technology has been a major factor affecting the long-term jobs decline.

Below, we’ll look at several claims Trump has made about the steel industry in recent months and how they measure up to the facts.

In late March 2018, Trump instituted the 25% tariffs on imported steel, and 10% tariffs on aluminum, with temporary exemptions for some countries, using his authority under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act. As required by the act, the Commerce Department had determined that the imports threatened national security. Two months later, he permanently exempted Argentina, Brazil and South Korea from the steel tariffs, with quotas on imports instead. Australia was also exempted, without a quota. In August 2018, Trump increased the tariff on steel from Turkey to 50%.

This year, in May, Trump lifted the tariffs on Canada and Mexico, and lowered the tariff on Turkey back to 25%. U.S. companies also have received exclusions on certain imports.

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