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WATCH: Trump orders probe into whether steel imports harm U.S. security

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is directing the administration to investigate whether steel imports are jeopardizing U.S. national security.

In the Oval Office on Thursday, Trump signed a memo ordering the investigation while surrounded by executives from U.S. steelmakers.

A 1960s trade law gives the president authority to restrict imports if they are determined to be harmful to U.S. security interests. The law requires that the investigation be concluded within 270 days. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the timeline will be expedited.

“Maintaining the production of American steel is extremely important to our national security and our defense industrial base. Steel is critical to both our economy and our military,” Trump said at the signing. “This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries. We have a product where we actually need foreign countries to be nice to us in order to fight for our people. And that’s not going to happen any longer, believe me — especially as it comes to steel.”

U.S. prominence in the steel industry has been slipping for decades.

According to the Belgium-based World Steel Association, American-made steel once accounted for roughly 20 percent of global production, but had slipped to less than 5 percent by 2015.

China made up less than 3 percent of U.S. steel imports.

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