The trade of steel and aluminum is central to the U.S.-U.A.E. bilateral relationship as this trade accounts for the largest share of U.A.E. exports to the United States. In fact, the U.A.E. is the third-largest exporter of aluminum to the U.S. after China and Russia. U.A.E. exports play an important role in meeting U.S. demand in the automotive, agriculture, defense, and aerospace industries. Most significantly, the high-quality aluminum imported from the U.A.E. is used to produce aircrafts—thereby making an important contribution to U.S. national security.
In 2018, the Trump administration announced steep tariffs on all imports of steel and aluminum, with the exception of imports from Canada and Mexico. The move was widely criticized for hurting major U.S. industries, and for failing to differentiate between countries conducting fair trade and those involved in dumping. While the Trump administration lifted the tariff on aluminum in its last days of office, the Biden administration reinstated it in February 2021.
Given the strong relationship shared by the U.S. and the U.A.E. and the importance of the steel and aluminum trade to both the U.A.E. economy and U.S. national security, the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council resisted the imposition of these tariffs. In June 2017, the Council convened a meeting of U.S. companies to discuss Section 232 of the U.S. investigation of aluminum imports. It subsequently penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) regarding this investigation in which the Council called for the BIS to hold harmless those countries such as the U.A.E. with bilateral defense agreements with the United States. The letter also emphasized the Council’s conviction that a duty or tariff on primary aluminum would negatively impact the U.S. downstream aluminum sector, placing at risk over 700,000 jobs in no less than 39 states due to a higher price of primary aluminum.
At the same time, the Council made these arguments publicly through appearances on radio stations as well as press commentary in papers such as Reuters, Gulf News, The National, and Arabian Business.
Since the imposition of tariffs, the Council has endeavored to obtain an exemption for the U.A.E. The Council has raised tariffs as an ongoing issue during countless events and discussions with U.S. and U.A.E. government officials and the broader business community. It has also ensured tariffs are on the agenda during bilateral government meetings, such as the annual Economic Policy Dialogue.
The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council will continue to promote the free and fair trade of steel and aluminum by advocating on behalf of members in the sector, promoting bilateral dialogue, and sharing information with the broader community.