WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is launching an investigation into Chinese imports, deploying trade-policy tools the United States hasn’t used for more than a quarter century in a move likely to raise tensions with Beijing.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that it has begun investigating whether Chinese aluminum sheeting is selling in the United States at illegally low prices. It is the first anti-dumping case the U.S. government has initiated on its own — not in response to complaints from U.S. companies — since Washington went after Japanese semiconductor imports in 1985.
“President Trump made it clear from Day One that unfair trade practices will not be tolerated,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said. “We are self-initiating the first trade case in over a quarter century, showing once again that we stand in constant vigilance in support of free, fair, and reciprocal trade.”
The department is also starting an investigation into whether China unfairly subsidizes aluminum sheeting, imports of which came to $603 million in the U.S. last year. It is the first such case the U.S. government has begun on its own since it launched an investigation into Canadian softwood lumber imports in 1991.
The announcement comes three weeks after Trump traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Although the Trump-Xi summit was cordial, the U.S. president has been widely expected to increase pressure on the Chinese government to reduce America’s huge trade deficit.
Last year, the U.S. trade gap in goods with China was $347 billion, by far the biggest with any country.