As Made in America Week Concludes, Still No Word on Steel or Aluminum Imports

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Jul 21 2017 |
President Trump said this week that tariffs on steel imports “could happen.” But the administration has yet to release its findings into national security investigations of steel and aluminum imports. | File Photo

Investigation findings were expected to be unveiled by the end of June.

American manufacturing has been in the spotlight over at the White House for #MadeinAmericaWeek. We've written about it quite a bit on the blog — and it certainly has gotten a lot of attention in the media.

Flying under the radar, however, is the ongoing Section 232 national security investigation into steel and aluminum imports. Although President Trump keeps teasing that he plans to take action, the Commerce Department still has not released the findings of either investigation, despite saying it would do so by the end of June.

Meanwhile, economic talks between the United States and China were held this week. Global steel overcapacity apparently was a key focus and… things did not go so great. While China insists both sides agreed on "active and effective measures" to reduce excess capacity, the Wall Street Journal reported that "American negotiators tried, unsuccessfully, to use the threat of new steel tariffs to force the Chinese to commit to specific benchmarks for cutting the country's mammoth production overcapacity in that sector."

And so we wait.

As we've noted many, many, many times here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, China is the driving force behind global industrial overcapacity. China is simply producing too much steel, aluminum and other industrial products (which, we'll note, are heavily subsidized and/or government-owned). Here's a video that really explains the whole thing:

The Chinese have pledged repeatedly stop making so much steel and aluminum and repeatedly have broken those promises. The Obama administration responded by issuing a series of high tariffs on specific unfairly traded steel products — and even filed a World Trade Organization (WTO) complaint against China over aluminum subsidies. But China is getting around the tariffs — there's strong evidence its steel is being funneled through Vietnam — and that WTO case is still working its way through the system. 

American steel and aluminum companies and workers are nearing a breaking point. Tens of thousands of steelworkers have faced layoffs and dozens of facilities have closed; it's the same in the aluminum sector, and there is just one smelter left that can make the high purity aluminum vital for key national defense needs like the F-35 fighter jet.

Those national defense needs are at the heart of the Section 232 investigations. We need steel and aluminum to build our tanks, aircraft carriers, and fighter jets — along with critical infrastructure like the electric grid, bridges, and transit systems. If we lose our ability to make the steel and aluminum we need, we'll quite possibly find ourselves relying on countries like China or Russia. Can you even imagine?

 Earlier this week, steelworker and local labor leader Dave McLimans sent a message to AAM's email supporters asking them to tell Trump and Congress to do everything possible to safeguard our steel and aluminum industries. McLimans spent his career as a steelworker at the ArcelorMittal Coatesville plant in Pennsylvania, which produces the steel plate, alloy and other materials needed by the military. He wrote:

"I can tell you firsthand that American steelworkers are ready and willing to compete against anyone in the world. But they work in a free market and play by the rules. They can't compete with the Chinese or Russian government!

I've always considered it an honor to make the steel used by the military to keep us all safe. I'd hate to see Coatesville fall victim to unfair trade — which might mean our military would have to turn to China or Russia to supply steel."

Here's the deal: Countries like China and Russia are heavily subsidizing their steel and aluminum production and dumping it into the U.S. market at unfair prices. Their goal is to capture enough market share that U.S. companies will go out of business… and then the U.S. will be forced to rely on these foreign nations for the materials we need to defend ourselves. Meanwhile, everyday Americans will lose their livelihood — remember that about 1 million Americans have a job because of the steel industry.

Enough is enough. President Trump pledged to take action to safeguard American steel and aluminum and its time for him to step up

The president is heading to Youngstown, Ohio for a big rally on Tuesday night. Will we finally see some action?