The United States cannot expect to field a modern military if it does not have the capability to produce the high-purity aluminum required to build and maintain armaments used by our military. President Donald J. Trump understands this essential principle, and therefore made a historic decision on March 8, 2018, to apply a 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum from any country that has not reached an agreement with the Administration to voluntarily reduce their aluminum exports to the United States. His bold action is paying off.
Today, at the Century Aluminum plant in Hawesville, Kentucky, I am attending the ribbon cutting of the first of three aluminum production lines across the country that are being restarted thanks to the President’s commitment to national security.
No country that is serious about protecting its national security should allow its aluminum industry to be eroded by foreign countries that provide massive subsidies for state-owned companies and manipulate pricing by dumping excess output onto global markets.
For years, the Federal Government failed to take strong action, allowing the United States aluminum sector and its ability to support our armed forces to severely erode. By the end of 2016, the American primary aluminum business was almost wiped out by these practices.
While this critical industry closed one smelter after another, the Chinese and other foreign governments were subsidizing millions of tons of new production capacity.
China, which produced 2.4 million metric tons of aluminum in 2000, increased its output to 36 million metric tons in 2017, an astonishing 1,390 percent increase and almost 49 times more than the United States aluminum production. At over $11 trillion, China’s economy is far smaller than the United States economy ($18 trillion), yet it produces 49 times the amount of aluminum.
Had the growth of aluminum production mirrored the ten-fold increase in China’s GDP over that period, then total Chinese primary aluminum production should have increased to 24 million tons, not 36 million tons. Globally, 63 million metric tons of aluminum were produced in 2017, with the United States accounting for a scant one percent of global output. By the end of 2016, what remained of this sector was under intense market pressure to close its last remaining smelters.
The national and economic security of our Nation were at risk.
These tariffs are rejuvenating an essential industry required by our military and critical commercial systems. They are putting Americans back to work, making it possible for our military and strategic industries to have access to the world’s highest purity aluminum, and they are revitalizing the local and national economies.
The Trump Administration will stand firm to defend the industrial capabilities required to ensure our national security. We will not allow ourselves to be dependent on foreign sources for a material that is essential to parts, components, and systems that are required by our warfighters.
We owe it to those in uniform, to the American people, and to the global protection of democracy and freedom to defend our vital industries when they are imperiled by the actions of those who do not abide by basic principles of fair competition and the free market.