Two American steel companies are reportedly exercising a type of veto power on whether other steel buyers and sellers are able to receive exemptions to the 25 percent steel import tariff introduced by the Donald Trump administration.
According to an Aug. 5 article by the New York Times, every recommendation made by Pittsburgh-based United States Steel Corp. (U.S. Steel) and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Nucor Corp. regarding such exemptions has been accepted by the Trump White House.
The Commerce Department reportedly has consulted with the two steelmakers, which have “successfully objected to hundreds of requests by American companies that buy foreign steel to exempt themselves from President Trump’s stiff metal tariffs.” The number of objections from the two firms reportedly numbers about 1,600.
According to Times reporter Jim Tankersley, “To date, their efforts have never failed, resulting in denials for companies that are based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains.”
U.S. Steel and Nucor contend that such imported products are available from American steel producers.
The article says both steelmaking firms have a business relationship with members of the White House staff, with Nucor reportedly having helped finance a documentary film called “Death by China” made in 2013 by White House trade advisor Peter Navarro.
U.S. Steel “has previously employed several top administration officials,” according to the Times, which mentions trade negotiators Robert Lighthizer and Jeffrey Gerrish as examples. July 26, President Trump made a personal appearance at the U.S. Steel mill complex in Granite City, Illinois.
The article quotes a U.S.-based employee of a Turkish steelmaking firm as objecting to the process, as it does Richard Chriss, the president of the Virginia-based American Institute for International Steel (AIIS). Chriss says the exemption “was not designed to be successfully navigated” by steel-consuming manufacturers who request exclusions. The AIIS has sued to block the tariffs on constitutional grounds.