Senator Baldwin Praises Biden for Taking on Shipbuilding Investigation — and Calls for Action

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Apr 22 2024 |
AAM’s Meghan Hasse joins Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) at a press conference on Monday in support of a trade investigation into China’s predatory practices in the shipbuilding industry. Photo by Scott Treibitz

Alliance for American Manufacturing field coordinator Meghan Hasse joined the Senator at a Monday event in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) said Monday she is encouraged that the Biden administration has begun an investigation into China’s shipbuilding industry and urged the White House to implement appropriate remedies to rebuild America’s own shipbuilding capabilities.

Speaking at the Fincantieri Ace Marine shipbuilding facility in Green Bay, Baldwin noted that “by cheating the system and deploying unfair tactics,” China has surged ahead in shipbuilding, producing over 1,000 oceangoing vessels every year, while the U.S. puts out fewer than 10. But the tide may be turning after the United Steelworkers (USW) and a coalition of unions filed a trade petition calling on the Biden administration to investigate China’s shipbuilding practices.

President Biden visited USW headquarters last week to announce his administration will launch the investigation, which Baldwin called “the first step in standing up to China and helping protect America’s shipbuilding industry and American workers.”

“But I know that we have more work to do to reclaim our position as the global leader in commercial shipbuilding, and that’s why I hope the Biden administration will consider some of the remedies proposed by the Steelworkers in their petition, including the creation of a fund to revitalize American shipbuilding,” Baldwin said.

Baldwin was joined at Monday’s press event by Denny Lauer of the United Steelworkers and AAM’s own Meghan Hasse, a Wisconsin native who also is our field coordinator in the state. Hasse told the gathered press that the “investigation is going to find the Chinese government built its shipbuilding juggernaut with all kinds of unfair trade practices, from state-directed industrial espionage to building up state-owned companies with the goal of wiping out international competition.”

“And so far it’s worked because no one cared to put up a fight,” Hasse continued. “Well, we’re fighting now.”

Baldwin has been a supporter of the USW-led trade investigation since Day One, appearing at a press conference alongside Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and USW International President Dave McCall to announce the filing. Hasse praised the senator for her support and for her continued advocacy for American manufacturing, which Hasse said has led to “better Buy America laws, better trade deals, and stronger domestic industries.”

Now it’s time to rebuild American shipbuilding, Hasse added.

“We can’t forget the supply chain crisis that followed the pandemic, which taught us the value of industrial resiliency. We learned that depending on ‘just in time’ production and commerce risks both – not to mention our national security,” Hasse said. “Shipbuilding is uniquely important to national security. It’s how you build and maintain a Navy. And if we aren’t fighting to get it back, we’ll have effectively outsourced a national security concern too.”

Lauer noted that the United States once led the world in shipbuilding, but its collapse led to the loss of 70,000 direct jobs, “not to mention all the secondary jobs the industry supports.” China’s absolute dominance of the industry isn’t just a jobs issue, though — it’s also impacting national security, Lauer added. The last three dry docks purchased by the U.S. Navy were Made in China, and the Maritime Security Program has no U.S. ships on inventory; the last ships that were bought or on order were Chinese-built, Lauer said.

“For years, China has gotten away with tilting the playing field, and its American workers and our national security that is paying the price,” Baldwin said, echoing Lauer. “When a shipyard goes out of business, or the production of essential parts goes overseas, we lose good-paying jobs, union jobs, but we also lose the knowledge of these tradesmen, who have found careers and planted roots in our communities. We cannot let China eat our lunch.”

The petition filed by the USW not only offers a “broad indictment” of the current state of affairs, but also offers potential solutions, Lauer said. If implemented, these remedies will help to rebuild supply chains and create good, union jobs, Lauer added. After all, a single commercial ship can require approximately 13,000 tons of structural steel, 60,000 gallons of paint, and 130 miles of electrical cable, all of which the United Steelworkers make.

While the Biden administration is moving forward with the investigation, it is likely to be at least several months before findings are released to the public. The U.S. Trade Representative, which is overseeing the probe, is currently accepting public comments on the investigation and is scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter on May 29.

USW International President Dave McCall joined AAM President Scott Paul on The Manufacturing Report podcast to talk about the case and what comes next. Listen below via SoundCloud or wherever you get your podcasts.