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North American aluminum associations ask for import monitoring boost

At a summit event in Mexico City, the national trade associations representing aluminum producers in Canada, Mexico and the United States issued a statement calling for increased import monitoring, but emphasizing the effort is not intended to impinge on tariff-free trade within North America.

The Aluminum Association, Instituto Mexicano del Aluminio and the Aluminium Association of Canada have called for “continued tariff-free trade, increased import monitoring and stronger trade enforcement” in a letter they have sent to trade officials in Canada, Mexico and the United States.

“For decades, our industries have relied on cross-border trade within the North American region to help make some of the highest quality and lowest carbon aluminum and aluminum products in the world,” the letter reads in part.

“Indeed, Canada and Mexico are the United States’ first and second largest aluminum trading partners, respectively. In 2022, our nations traded more than $47 billion worth of aluminum and aluminum products across the region,” the letter adds. 

However, the three groups say action is necessary ahead of a mandated review of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) in 2026.

Within the USMCA region, the three groups say that “maintaining Section 232 aluminum tariff exemptions for Canada and Mexico benefit[s] the sector across North America. The filing of a 15-country trade case, which includes Mexico, by a subsection of U.S. aluminum extrusion producers threatens to overshadow the longstanding coordination and partnership between the aluminum industries in the three countries.”

Regarding increased import monitoring, the triad of trade groups writes, “Both the United States and Canada have stood up new or enhanced aluminum import monitoring programs, but Mexico has not. We urge the Mexican government to promptly implement such a program to meet the mutual commitment under the Section 232 exemption joint letter.”

Chinese aluminum imports into Mexican and American ports were part of an accusation stemming from a 2016 Wall Street Journal investigation into efforts by a China-based company to skirt U.S. tariffs then in place.

The notion of aluminum from lower-cost, higher-emissions countries such as China is again attracting attention as the United States and the European Union consider applying a carbon border adjustment mechanism (in effect, a tariff) on high-carbon aluminum and steel.

In its latest letter, the three trade groups write, “Both the United States and Mexico were the victims of a significant aluminum transshipment scheme in the mid-2010s in which massive volumes of Chinese aluminum billet was disguised as a different product to avoid hundreds of millions in tariffs. Both the United States and Mexico have pursued successful antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) cases against unfairly traded Chinese aluminum over the past several years. Continued vigilance and enforcement of global trade laws in the sector is needed.”

Sustainability also gets a mention from the groups, who voice their “full support of the aluminum sustainability agenda.” Add the trade associations, “Our governments must continue to support industry in its pursuit of decarbonization efforts and the broader aluminum sustainability agenda. This support may include research for next generation production techniques and increased recycling efforts.”

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