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Section 232 steel investigation to wrap up 'very shortly': Commerce Secretary

Pittsburgh — The US Department of Commerce's Section 232 investigation on the effect steel imports have on national security will be completed "very, very shortly," Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday.

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Testifying in front of a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, Ross outlined a few potential outcomes for the investigation and said the department's report will take into consideration the interests of both steelmakers and consumers.

"We are very mindful of the need both to protect domestic steel producers from inappropriate behavior on the part of foreign dumpers, but also to protect the steel consumers, steel fabricators, the auto companies, everybody else that uses steel," Ross said. "In the event that we come with a recommendation, it will be, I hope, a thoughtful one and one that reflects the balance of the needs of these various segments."

Ross said he believes there is a genuine national security issue that must be considered in the case, as he said steel is used in more than 10,000 different military products and very few mills are able to produce certain alloy steels that are important for armored plate production and other applications.

However, there is no steel mill in the country that can operate on just government business, he said. As an example, Ross said the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, that the US dropped on Afghanistan in April was produced at a US oil country tubular goods plant.

Related Snapshot video: US demonstrates allegiance to aluminum, steel through import investigations

There are basically three potential recommendations Commerce could suggest to President Donald Trump, Ross said.

"The first would be imposing tariffs at some sort of level above and beyond the countervailing duty and antidumping ones that we already have," he said. "The second would be imposing quotas, and then the third would be a kind of hybrid, a so-called tariff-rate quota, where you would set the quotas based on the actual experience in recent years and then provide that in the event that there were imports of those particular products from those particular countries in excess of the quotas, then there would be an additional tariff imposed."

In the event that a tariff-rate quota was imposed, it would not be have much impact on inflation, Ross said.

"It would essentially say we're protecting something like the original status quo and only imposing an additional tariff burden in the event the quotas are exceeded," he said. "Presumably, they wouldn't go over the quota by 50%-100% so the overall impact on inflation, were that to be the route, should be relatively modest."

Related: Find more content about Trump's administration in our news and analysis feature.

--Justine Coyne,

--Edited by Kevin Saville,