AEC: U.S. Faces Possible Aluminum Shortage Due to Russian Sanctions, Tariffs

The Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC) is calling on Washington, D.C., to exclude from tariffs all countries from which the domestic extrusion industry can import primary aluminum until the administration can guarantee a sufficient domestic supply. The AEC cites a disruption to the primary aluminum supply chain due to the 10 percent tariff on imported aluminum from non-excluded countries, and sanctions placed upon Russian oligarchy at the beginning of April, which includes United Company Rusal Plc., one of the world’s largest aluminum companies.

Today, however, the U.S. government extended the time U.S. customers of RUSAL have to comply with the sanctions from June 5 to October 23. According to Reuters, the decision caused aluminum prices to dive, slipping more than 8 percent on the London Metal Exchange. RUSAL’s shares jumped 13 percent on the Moscow Exchange, but U.S. rival Alcoa Corp. saw its shares tumble 12 percent after the announcement.

“RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a statement. “RUSAL has approached us to petition for delisting. Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.”

According to Brook Hamilton, president of Bonnell Aluminum, he received panicked calls after the initial announcement regarding the sanctions.

“People who rely on RUSAL called asking if we could commit to shipping X number of trucks of billet, or logs, in July and August when supply runs out. We need price or scrap to produce logs. Only 3 percent of our supply comes from RUSAL so we could shore up the gap with other vendors, but I can’t guarantee that everyone will have metal,” he says. “I’ve read that there could be a 10- to 18-percent supply hole. The high end is a large number.”

Hamilton says that U.S. suppliers expected to ramp up capacity can’t do that without alumina, the ore that is used to create aluminum. RUSAL owns the closest supplies of alumina in Ireland and Jamaica.

“It doesn’t seem likely that the U.S. can ramp up capacity,” says Hamilton.

An AEC release reads, “It is important that policy makers in our country’s capitol find a solution to this self-inflicted wound. No one in the U.S. aluminum extrusion industry has sympathy for the Russian oligarchy, and it’s simply not an issue they have standing to address.

However, there must be a way to address that concern without destabilizing the domestic industry.”

Hamilton says the future is uncertain and that he can’t predict whether the U.S. will “let Russia off the hook” or allow another extension once October gets closer.

According to Hamilton, the tariffs have not had a major impact on the physical supply of aluminum in the U.S. due to exclusions made after the tariffs were originally accounted and stockpiles available to the U.S.

Jeff Henderson, AEC president tells USGNN.com™: “I do think it’s fair to say that at a minimum, the sudden increase in aluminum prices and premiums are certainly negatively impacting extrusion buyers, and the curtainwall folks are no exception.”

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