Final action necessary to support American steel, national security

Final action necessary to support American steel, national security
Written by: Reps. Rick Crawford (R-AR), Mike Bost (R-IL), and Peter J. Visclosky (D-IN)
Published by: The Hill

As the leaders of the Congressional Steel Caucus, we represent, and in many cases personally know, those who are directly suffering as the result of unfair foreign trade and economic policies that have hurt the U.S. steel industry.

Steel is vitally important to our nation’s overall national security. It’s with these concerns in mind that we encourage quick action on remedies authorized in Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act.

A robust and viable domestic steel industry is essential to the strength of America’s national security. In applications ranging from aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to Patriot and Stinger missiles, and from armor plate for tanks to field artillery pieces, virtually every military platform is dependent on U.S.-produced steel. Without American steel, the Department of Defense would be forced to rely on foreign imports, which would be unacceptable during a national emergency or military conflict.

A strong American steel industry is also essential to a growing and vibrant manufacturing base and American economy. Our nation’s critical infrastructure, including our bridges, roadways, waterways, rail, energy infrastructure, electric grid and drilling equipment for energy production, all rely on U.S.-produced steel. We must continue to enhance and strengthen our steel-production capabilities so that we may continue to build and repair the foundation of America’s infrastructure with American-made steel.

The strength of the American steel industry has been decimated in years past by illegal imports. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, there are currently 212 antidumping and countervailing duty orders in place on steel and steel-related products from over 30 countries. This accounts for approximately 50 percent of all active orders on imports, and there are an additional 27 active investigations currently occurring on steel and steel-related products. In each of these active duty orders, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission determined that the domestic steel industry was injured or that there was a threat of injury due to the illegal trade practices of a foreign country. This injury continues to be felt every day in communities across our nation with idle steel mills and by the more than 100,000 people who have lost steel-related jobs in the past decades.  

While these trade enforcement remedies do provide some needed relief, they are unable to counteract the global scale of illicit trading practices. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, global excess steel capacity in 2017 totaled 700 million metric tons, which is more than eight times the output of all American steel producers. The countries that produce this overcapacity do not play by our market-based rules. They operate from state-owned enterprises, receive illegal government subsidies and other government policies while threatening to flood our market at a moment’s notice. Some countries are also very adept at masking the country of origin of a product and evading U.S. duty orders by simply routing their products through other countries.

There are many valid opinions and options on how to address these global imbalances. Some long-term solutions would take time and involve the cooperation and coordination of multiple government agencies and foreign trading partners, time our steel industry does not have. In the immediate term, it is necessary that action is taken to defend this critical security resource.

On a level playing field, American steelworkers can compete with anyone in the world. The U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that American jobs are protected from unfair trade and that our national security is protected from illegal steel imports. We are pleased President Trump has indicated he will take immediate action to implement the Section 232 investigation recommendations and believe it is time we send a resounding message to countries around the world that we will fully utilize all of our trade laws and we will not tolerate illegal trading practices.

Crawford and Bost are Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Steel Caucus. Peter J. Visclosky is Vice Chairman of the caucus.

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