Mexico and Canada gain share in US steel market

Mexico and Canada gained shares in the US finished steel market in 2020, according to data from the American Iron and Steel Association and ArcelorMittal estimates for the month of December.

Traditionally, the majority of US imports of finished steel have come from Canada and Mexico, representing approximately one-third of total imports.

In 2020, while imports to the United States declined in almost all major markets, imports from its NAFTA partners were relatively stable at around 6 million tonnes, similar to 2019 levels.

As a result, the share of finished steel imports from the United States from NAFTA increased from 35% in 2019 to 45% in 2020, with a large increase in the share of imports from Canada, to 33% from 26% and in to a lesser extent, from Mexico to 12% from 9% in 2019.

The increased penetration of imports from Mexico and Canada comes at the expense of imports from the European Union, whose share of imports decreased from 19 to 15%, as well as from the CIS (from 3 to 1%) and the ASEAN (5 to 3%).

Only Turkey saw an increase in the share of imports to 4% (from 1% in 2019), while the share of imports from other regions remained broadly stable, including developed Asia (approximately 20%), India ( 1%) and China (2 percent).


US imports of finished steel peaked in 2014 at nearly 30 million tonnes, declining to about 18 million tonnes in 2019 (or a 19 percent portion of imports).

The decline in finished steel imports was primarily due to Section 232 implemented in 2018 adding a 25% duty on most imports outside of the NAFTA region.

In 2020, as in Europe, widespread closures were imposed in most US states between the end of March and May, causing a sharp drop in economic activity, particularly in auto production, as they closed automobile plants.

The weakness of the energy sector and an approximate 45% reduction in the demand for tubes and pipes caused the world’s apparent consumption of steel to fall by approximately 18% year-on-year in 2020.