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Ohio Senators Urge Protective Action on Possible Steel Tariffs

In a report released Friday by the U.S. Commerce Department, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross concluded that steel imports, particularly from China, have driven down the price of steel, which in turn has hurt U.S. steel manufacturers and “threaten[ed] to impair the national security." The report goes on to recommend that President Trump impose either tariffs or quotas on all imported steel.

If Trump adopts Ross's recommendation, the decision would impact Ohio, where the region’s metal production industry boasts more than 3,400 companies (such as Timken, Parker Hannifin and AK Steel) and more than 100,000 workers, according to the economic development agency Team NEO.

The release of the report comes just days after President Trump met with lawmakers, including Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, at the White House to discuss what actions, if any, the administration would take to protect U.S. steelmakers from increased imports from China. 

During that meeting, some Republican lawmakers expressed concern that imposing tariffs on steel would hurt companies that use steel in their products. 

The agency is recommending that President Trump take immediate protective action by "adjusting the level of imports through quotas or tariffs on steel imported into the United States, as well as direct additional actions to keep the U.S. steel industry financially viable and able to meet U.S. national security needs."

Reacting to the report, both Portman and Brown urged the President to come to a swift decision, though neither Senator said which specific course of action they would prefer the President take.

“I thank Secretary Ross for his work, but Ohio steelworkers don’t need a report to tell them they are losing jobs to Chinese cheating," said Brown in a statement following the report's release. "The president must act urgently to stop trade cheats from undermining our steel companies and steelworkers.”

A spokeswoman for Portman said that the senator "looks forward to reviewing the Commerce Department’s recommendations. He believes we should work together to protect American jobs and hold our trading partners accountable when they cheat. And he continues to believe the administration should move quickly to make a final decision on this investigation.”

According to a Commerce Department statement, "The reports are currently under consideration by the President, and no final decisions have been made with regard to their contents."

The President has until April 11th to make a decision, the statement said, at which point he may take "a range of actions, or no action."

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