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Middle East aluminum producers skeptical on possible US 232 duties

Muscat — Any imposition of duties on aluminum imports into the US as a result of the ongoing Section 232 investigation would ultimately only disadvantage US consumers, Middle Eastern aluminum producer officials said Tuesday at the Arabal 2017 conference in Muscat, Oman.

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"It does not make sense," Tim Murray, CEO of Aluminium Bahrain, told the meeting, pointing out that the North American market has a hefty structural supply shortfall.

"This will ultimately be a tax on consumers," he said.

The separate 232 investigations into the impact of steel and aluminum imports on national security were initiated by Commerce in April with much fanfare by the Trump administration, amid promises of swift findings and subsequent action.

The investigations, which could result in the introduction of tariffs, duties or other measures, typically take 270 days, but the administration said it was fast-tracking the investigation and expected to release the results by the end of June. As yet, however, no final decision has been made public.

"I do not think 232 will be used to impose duties," said Khalid Mohamed Sultan Laram, CEO of Qatar Aluminium.

Any decision to do so "won't be good for downstream industry, particularly automotive," he said.

Sohar Aluminium CEO Said Mohammed Al Masoudi also suggested that an imposition of duties on primary metal "does not make sense", at least economically, though he also said that political considerations could be a separate issue.

The US downstream industry "has done a very good job lobbying" against duties, said Alba's Murray, adding: "If they did it [imposed duties] I think it would be restricted to the Chinese."

Members of the US Aluminum Association at a press briefing in Washington last month reiterated their position that any remedies that result from the Section 232 investigation should be directed toward China and no other countries.

--Andy Blamey,
--Edited by Dan Lalor,