Probe into Titanium Sponge Imports

The U.S. Commerce Department launched a national security probe into titanium sponge imports, a key input of defense applications, from helicopter blades and tank armor to fighter jet airframes and engines, and other equipment like space vehicles, satellites, naval vessels, missiles, and munitions.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross accepted the Section 232 petition filed on September 27, 2018, by domestic producer Titanium Metals Corporation (TIMET) and launched an investigation into whether the quantity or circumstances of titanium sponge imports into the United States threaten to impair the national security.

Titanium sponge is the primary form of titanium metal from which almost all other titanium products are made. Titanium is also used in infrastructure and commercial products including civilian aircraft, chemical plants, oil and gas plants, electric power and desalination plants. Boeing Co and Airbus SE are major users of titanium sponge. Imports account for more than 60 percent of U.S. titanium sponge consumption. The U.S. last year imported $778 million in titanium, with $214 million coming from Japan, $184 million coming from Russia and $53 million from China, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Currently only one facility in the United States has the capacity to process titanium ore into the sponge used in manufacturing.

In July, the department launched national security investigation into uranium imports. The new probe is the fifth launched by the Trump administration under Section 232. Probes on steel and aluminum imports have led to tariffs and quotas on the metals, prompting retaliation from trading partners including Canada, Mexico and the European Union.