The United States on Tuesday stepped up its trade confrontation with China, ordering an investigation into imports of aluminum sheet worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
For the first time since 1991, the Commerce Department said launched the investigation on its own initiative, rather than responding to a request from a US company.
The department said it opened the probe into possible dumping and inappropriate subsidies of ‘common alloy aluminum sheet’ from China, which may be harming US industry.
‘President Trump made it clear from day one that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated under this administration, and today we take one more step in fulfilling that promise,’ Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
‘We are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair, and reciprocal trade.’
The US imported over $600 million of the aluminum sheet from China last year. The product, used in building and construction, transportation and making appliances, may benefit from subsidies and may be sold in the US market below cost, the statement said.
Washington’s aggressive use of the rare tactic capped a series of adversarial recent maneuvers on trade with China and followed President Donald Trump’s two-week trip to Asia this month, which included a stop in Beijing.
Among the steps it has taken, the Trump administration in April launched a national security investigation into Chinese aluminum production, warning that it threatened to undermine producers crucial to US defense needs, and has slapped punitive duties on imports of Chinese aluminum foil.