How Much Steel Do We Import From China? It’s Complicated.

President Trump’s newly announced steel and aluminum tariffs are widely seen as a strike against China. But here’s an odd thing: the tariffs are based on a pair of Commerce Department reports (steel here, aluminum here) that examine whether domestic production of these products is essential to national security. However, the reports recommend tariffs only on raw aluminum and raw steel mill products (plates, wire, sheeting, etc.), and when it comes to raw metals, we hardly get any at all from China:

It’s pretty much the same deal for aluminum:

There might be a case that these products are crucial for national security and our supply shouldn’t be dependent on uncertain sources, but that only holds water if you consider Canada, Brazil, and Mexico to be uncertain sources. This is just me, but I can’t say I stay up nights worrying that Canada might cut off our supply of steel and aluminum if we get into a war.

But things get even odder when you broaden your horizon. If you look at more advanced steel products, we do indeed import a lot from China:

But these products aren’t included in the tariffs. Apparently we’re worried about being dependent on Canada and Brazil, but not on China. This is … peculiar, no?


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend