US tariffs on Mexico could affect fluorspar imports

By Michael Greenfield
Published: Tuesday, 09 July 2019

US business could suffer to the tune of millions of dollars if president Donald Trump’s import tariffs on Mexican produce, intended to curb illegal immigration, take hold.

US President Donald Trump’s import tariffs on Mexican produce would affect the industrial minerals sector, adding potential costs of millions of dollars to businesses in the United States.

Mexico-origin fluorspar, along with all other Mexican imports, were to be subject to 5% duty from June 10 if a resolution to the illegal immigration into the US via the US-Mexican border was not found. Fluorspar prices were already at historic highs due to the prevailing tightness in global supplies and this new duty would add further to costs for US businesses.

Fastmarkets’ price assessment for fluorspar, acidspar, 97% CaF2, wet filtercake, fob Tampico, Mexico, was $400-450 per tonne on May 30. This was unchanged since December 13, 2018, but still at a historic high point, last seen in early 2013.

There is some resistance from the US Senate because Mexico supplies a lot of agricultural goods to the US.

In 2018, the US imported 235,000 tonnes of acid-grade fluorspar, which at current prices would cost about $94-105.75 million. The 5% levy would add another $5 million to those costs.

The US also imported 75,000 tonnes of metallurgical-grade fluorspar from Mexico in 2018, according to data from the US Geological Survey.

And there was also potential for the tariffs to be pushed up to 25% by October 1 if Mexico does not submit to the US president’s demands on migration.

Minor metals could be caught in 'US-China rare earths crossfire’

Elsewhere, traders have suggested that minor metals could become the next commodities to be caught up in the trade war between the US and China.

The government in Beijing has made a number of gestures suggesting that it could restrict the export of rare earths to the US.

These threats have been met with a certain amount of skepticism among market sources, but they have also pushed up the prices of a number of critical rare earth commodities.

The US Department of Defense was actively seeking new sources for these elements, which have a wide range of applications in the defense and high-tech industries.

And a number of sources have suggested to Fastmarkets that other strategic metals could be entangled in the trade dispute, including antimony.

On June 4 this year, the US Department of Commerce released a federal strategy intended to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign sources of 'critical minerals’ and promising 'unprecedented action.’

Recommendations included stockpiling, diversifying domestic critical mineral sources, and more efficient processing, manufacturing and recycling of critical minerals to minimize waste and increase supplies.

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