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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration may undertake trade actions to protect the U.S. semiconductor, shipbuilding and aluminum industries, citing national security concerns, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Wall Street Journal in an interview on Tuesday.
He said those industries could qualify for protection under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, which lets the president impose restrictions on imports for reasons of national security and was used to launch a probe of steel imports, the Journal reported.
Last week, President Donald Trump launched a trade probe against China and other exporters of cheap steel into the U.S. market, raising the possibility of new tariffs.
Ross said the Trump administration might intercede to aid Toshiba Corp's U.S. unit Westinghouse Electric Co, which filed for bankruptcy last month.
The company filed for bankruptcy protection after it incurred billions of dollars of cost overruns at four nuclear reactors under construction in the U.S. Southeast. The bankruptcy cast doubt on the future of the first new U.S. nuclear power plants in three decades.
Ross said renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement should be completed by the end of 2017, the Journal reported. Ross told the newspaper that if the talks with Mexico and Canada go much beyond December, it would be difficult to get the pact ratified by Mexico.
Mexico is due to hold its presidential election in July 2018.
Ross said the Trump administration was considering restarting talks on bilateral trade deals with the European Union and China that the Obama administration had begun but never finished, the Journal reported, adding that he said the United States might reopen a bilateral deal with South Korea.
Earlier this month, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told business leaders in Seoul that the Trump administration would review and reform the five-year-old free trade agreement between the two countries.
Pence said the U.S. trade deficit had more than doubled in the five years since the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement began and there were too many barriers for U.S. businesses in the country.
Writing by Eric Beech