Latest U.S. Data: Primary Aluminum Imports from Canada Decline in June
Volumes Below Traditional Levels
Data released yesterday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that overall imports of primary aluminum from Canada (7601) into the United States declined by about 2.6 percent from May to June. Primary aluminum import volumes from Canada for the first 6 months of 2020 were nearly 5 percent lower than same period in 2017.
“This latest data release is consistent with our position all along – claims of a ‘surge’ of primary aluminum imports from Canada are simply not accurate. It is disappointing that the few companies who stand to benefit from reinstated Section 232 aluminum tariffs on Canada have cherry-picked government data and omitted important context to build their case,” said Tom Dobbins, president & CEO of the Aluminum Association. “Especially now, the U.S. should be focused on getting the manufacturing economy going again in the region – not picking battles with USMCA trading partners. With U.S. aluminum demand down almost 25 percent so far in 2020 – the first decline in nearly a decade – the industry can simply not afford more shocks to the market.”
Imports of one type of primary aluminum – P1020 or unalloyed – did increase during the first half of the year. However, this growth was offset by import declines in the other type of primary aluminum, Value Added Products (VAP) or alloyed aluminum. Smelters around the world produced more P1020 aluminum, particularly during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand dropped for VAP aluminum in automotive and other end markets.
“Aluminum producers worldwide have shifted to more P1020 production in recent months amid lower demand for VAP aluminum,” said Dobbins. “This was a completely predictable outgrowth of COVID-19 demand impacts and doesn’t change the fact that overall imports of primary aluminum from Canada into the U.S. are stable to declining. Unfortunately, a handful of market actors are taking natural market fluctuations to try and create a crisis where there is none.”
Open North American trade is essential to a competitive U.S. aluminum industry. Fully 97 percent of U.S. aluminum industry jobs are in mid-and-downstream production and processing. These jobs depend on a mix of domestic and imported primary aluminum, including from countries like Canada, to meet demand and support U.S. aluminum jobs. The U.S. is a deficit market for primary aluminum. Even at full capacity, U.S. smelters can only produce about one-third of the primary aluminum the industry consumes.
The vast majority of U.S. aluminum companies and users are united in opposing the reimplementation of Section 232 tariffs or quotas on Canada. As the Aluminum Association has extensively documented, reports of a “surge” of primary aluminum imports from Canada are grossly exaggerated. Overall primary aluminum imports from Canada to the U.S. are near traditional levels and have barely budged as a percentage of overall imports in 30 years.