US steel imports drop 22% in February

Metal Miner | Fouad Egbaria MARCH 29, 2021

US steel imports in February — and through the first two months of the year — are down compared with 2020, the Census Bureau reported.

US steel imports in February down 22% from previous month

US steel imports reached 1.71 million metric tons in February, according to preliminary data from the Census Bureau.

Imports fell from 2.20 million metric tons in January.

Meanwhile, February 2021 imports were up from the 1.37 million metric tons imported in February 2020.

Furthermore, imports were down over 7% in the year to date compared with the first two months of 2020.

According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), finished steel import market share reached an estimated 18% in February. Meanwhile, through the first two months of the year, import market share reached 17%.

In addition, after reaching 35% in 2017, steel import penetration fell to 26% by 2019, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Tin plate, cold rolled sheet imports surge

February saw a surge in imports of tin plate and cold rolled sheets, among other steel products.

February tin plate imports reached 62,518 metric tons, up 158% from 24,213 metric tons in January.

Cold rolled sheet imports reached 109,656 metric tons in February, up 69% from January.

Hot rolled sheet imports jumped 63.3% to 197,901 metric tons in February.

EU imports rise, while imports from Canada, Mexico fall

By import source, Canada led the way in February, sending 468,161 metric tons to the US. However, imports from Canada declined by 8.8% from the previous month.

Furthermore, US steel imports from Mexico fell 30.9% from January to February, reaching 228,925 metric tons in the latter month.

Meanwhile, imports from from the EU nearly doubled. Imports from the EU totaled 382,411 metric tons in February, up 95.9% from the previous month.

EPI: Section 232 tariffs produced ‘near-immediate benefits’

As we noted last week, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a report in which it argues the Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum — instituted by former President Donald Trump — produced “near-immediate benefits.”

“For decades, chronic global steel supply gluts have undermined the U.S. steel industry with surging imports to U.S. markets undercutting prices, domestic production, employment, and investments,” the EPI said. “This oversupply jeopardizes the fundamental health of the U.S. steel industry—one of the cleanest and most energy-efficient steel industries globally.”

Meanwhile, the American Iron and Steel Institute echoed the report’s conclusions.

“This study makes it abundantly clear that the steel tariffs are working,” AISI President and CEO Kevin Dempsey said. “We commend the economic analysis conducted by EPI which confirms that, due largely to the Section 232 steel tariffs, the American steel industry has been able to invest nearly 16 billion dollars to build, upgrade or expand steel facilities while also enabling the industry to effectively restructure.

“While these investments have created 3,200 new jobs, the tariffs kept many more workers on the job as the industry was threatened by significant challenges from foreign government trade-distorting policies and practices that have created substantial steel overcapacity worldwide.”

In 2020, steel imports fell 21.2% compared with the previous year.