Stalled Administration Action on Steel Imports Upsets USW, Congresswoman

Scott Paul Director, AAM

Continued Trump administration stalling on whether huge amounts of steel imports are a national security threat – stalling symbolized by a secret report the Commerce Department sent to the president – upset both Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and steel-area Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio.

After all the time spent studying the issue and all the evidence the union, Kaptur and other witnesses presented about worldwide steel production overcapacity, particularly from

China, the conclusion should be obvious, the two said.

In short, they stated, the dumping of steel, at below-cost prices, on the U.S. drives U.S. steel plants out of business – including plants producing steel for vital defense goods from water pipes on bases to armor plating on tanks – and workers out of jobs. That threatens national security, Gerard added.

And if the threat is proven, Trump has unilateral power, unfettered by international trade rules, to limit, stop or put high tariffs on the imports.

Just since the Commerce Department probe has started, three more U.S. steel plants have announced layoffs, throwing hundreds of employees out of work, due to competition from subsidized imports, added Robert Paul of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross presented the report to GOP President Donald Trump on Jan. 16, six months after he promised Kaptur he would send it to the White House. He didn’t say what was in it or what it recommended, and an e-mail to the department seeking the report’s text produced only a link to its 1-paragraph press release. The website had zip.

Trump now has 90 days to decide what to do. That upset Gerard and Kaptur. Both testified at the agency’s public hearing last June on steel import dumping and its threat to national security.


“We’re dismayed the report took so long to produce and that we still have to wait for a decision. It is obvious our nation’s steel sector has been under attack by unfair foreign trade and the sector is vital to our national security,” said Gerard.

“The current surge in imports – more than 20 percent – is the result of countries taking advantage of our market before the president acts.”

Gerard said Trump “has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reset the trade agenda and preserve and protect” U.S. jobs. In his testimony last year, Gerard noted the last tariffs on subsidized imported steel came after USW demonstrations and evidence produced during the GOP George W. Bush administration. The tariffs were high in the 2004 presidential election year, then declined and phased out after two more years.

“We’ve got to champion the interests of American workers, and all our citizens, by protecting industries vital to our national security,” Gerard continued. As the administration stalls, U.S. workers and plants suffer, he said, citing recent steel factory closings in Conshohocken, Pa., and Ashland, Ky., “and idling, reduced operations and job losses at plants” nationwide.

And this is not the first stall, the USW president said. After Ross missed his deadline to Kaptur, he promised to send the report to Trump after the GOP-run Congress handled health care. When his agency failed, he set a new deadline, of after the tax cut.

“Now they” – steelworkers and their families – “wonder how much longer they have to wait to see if campaign promises will be kept...The time for talk and debate has passed and the president should act boldly.”

Kaptur was similarly caustic. She demanded Trump and Ross tell Congress now what they plan to do about the imports. “One thing has not changed since the investigation began is that steelworkers and communities like Lorain, Ohio, who have been battered by job losses, need relief now,” she said. She wants the two to brief lawmakers and “provide an expedited plan of action to ensure that the U.S. takes an appropriate response to the well-documented manipulation of the global steel market by countries like China and Russia.”