How Much Steel Do We Import From China? It’s Complicated.

President Trump’s newly announced steel and aluminum tariffs are widely seen as a strike against China. But here’s an odd thing: the tariffs are based on a pair of Commerce Department reports (steel here, aluminum here) that examine whether domestic production of these products is essential to national security. However, the reports recommend tariffs only on raw aluminum and raw steel mill products (plates, wire, sheeting, etc.), and when it comes to raw metals, we hardly get any at all from China:

It’s pretty much the same deal for aluminum:

There might be a case that these products are crucial for national security and our supply shouldn’t be dependent on uncertain sources, but that only holds water if you consider Canada, Brazil, and Mexico to be uncertain sources. This is just me, but I can’t say I stay up nights worrying that Canada might cut off our supply of steel and aluminum if we get into a war.

But things get even odder when you broaden your horizon. If you look at more advanced steel products, we do indeed import a lot from China:

But these products aren’t included in the tariffs. Apparently we’re worried about being dependent on Canada and Brazil, but not on China. This is … peculiar, no?

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.