WASHINGTON — President Trump said Monday he is "considering all options" in dealing with steel and aluminum dumping by China and other countries — including tariffs and quotas.
"I want to keep prices down, but I also want to make sure that we have a steel industry and an aluminum industry, and we do need that for national defense," Trump said. "If we ever have a conflict, we don't want to be buying the steel from a country that we're fighting, because somehow that doesn't work very well."
Trump spoke in a meeting with members of Congress at he White House Tuesday — the latest in a series of fully televised meetings he's had over the last month to talk about immigration, infrastructure and now trade.
Trump is weighing whether to use one of his strongest trade tools — Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 — to restrict imports of strategic materials he deems vital to U.S. national security. He ordered investigations into the steel and aluminum markets last April.
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross completed his investigations into the steel and aluminum markets last month, and Trump said he is now considering the reports.
While steel and aluminum producers are lobbying for Trump to take action, 15 trade groups representing other manufacturers warned Trump Monday that his action could have "unintended and disastrous consequences."
Trump met with 19 members of Congress Tuesday — 15 Republicans and four Democrats — but Trump didn't get universal support from either side. Many Republicans advised caution, while Democrats demanded action.
"I think we do need to be careful here, that we don't start a reciprocal battle on tariffs," said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. "You know, we make aluminum and we make steel in Missouri, but we buy a lot of aluminum and we buy a lot of steel as well. From bass boats to beer cans, there's a lot of aluminum out there."
Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., advocated “a balanced approach” and urged Trump to make China his “main target.”
But Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., said imports have continued to surge since Trump ordered the steel investigation last April.
"The time for talk about standing up for our steelworkers has passed. It’s time for action," he said after the meeting.