After steel, Trump trains his sights on aluminum imports

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a news conference that aluminum imports had climbed 16% in 2016, while production had declined

The Trump administration on Wednesday announced it is launching an investigation into aluminum imports, saying they could be harming US interests including national security.

Following a similar probe launched last week into steel, this investigation will also be carried out under a little-used law -- Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act -- which invokes national defense reasons to protect US production.

And like the steel probe, China will again be in the spotlight.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told a news conference that aluminum imports had climbed 16 percent in 2016, while production had declined.

"China subsidies have created overcapacity," he said.

"At the very same time that our military is needing more and more of the very high quality aluminum, we are producing less and less of everything and only have one producer of aerospace quality aluminum."

The Section 232 law was used primarily in the 1970s, during the oil crisis, and more recently in 2001 for steel.

It gives the Commerce Department 270 days to investigate the issue and draft its findings after consulting with the Pentagon. The president then will have 90 days to decide whether to take any actions, which could include high tariffs on aluminum imports.

Donald Trump has made protection of US industry, including the steel and coal sectors, a priority for his presidency.