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Just how much steel and aluminum are we talking about?

After railroading past a number of his advisors, Trump announced this week that he will be rolling out tariffs on imports of steel (at 25%) and aluminum (at 10%), citing national security concerns. In particular, administration officials have lambasted China as the source of unfair trading practices.

The reality: The U.S. imported $900.6 million in steel from China last year — a fraction of what the U.S. imported from several other trade partners. The stated intent is to hit back on China, but all these other trading partnerships are now facing strained ties, and could hit back with their own tariffs now as well.

Data: Census Bureau; Note: Includes only products under the "Iron & Steel & Ferroalloy" and "Alumina & Aluminum & Processing" NAICS commodity classifications; Chart: Chris Canipe, Lazaro Gamio / Axios
  • China's trade in steel with the U.S. places it behind Canada, Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Taiwan, Japan, Germany, and South Africa. Imports of aluminum from China fall in second place, just behind imports from Canada, from which the U.S. imports the most steel and aluminum.

Canada and Mexico are now exempt from the tariffs, so long as they come to an agreement on NAFTA with the U.S., which just rounded out its seventh round of talks. Canada and Mexico both have pushed back that NAFTA and said the tariffs issue are not linked.

  • The exemption came as a bit of a surprise after the administration said there would be no exceptions to the new tariffs, which are set to roll out in just under 15 days now.
  • The president reserves the authority to exempt other partners, and even companies, from the tariffs as well.

The trade war might extend beyond the imports listed above…

  • The EU is planning tit-for-tat tariffs on the U.S., and may expand them beyond steel and aluminum.
  • China called the tariffs a “serious attack,” and retaliation seems likely, per CNN. China could fight back.
  • South Korea’s trade minister announced it would seek new markets for steel.

Bottom line: The extent of the effect of the tariffs has yet to be set in stone — countries and companies have fewer than 15 days now to apply for exempt status.

Go deeper... Trade wars: The effect of Trump’s tariffs