Tariffs of 25 percent on steel imports send a strong signal to foreign steelmakers who have long looked to undercut domestic producers to snatch away market share, a steel CEO told the Congressional Steel Caucus on Wednesday.
”By imposing tariffs on imported steel, President Trump is sending a strong message that dumping steel into our market will no longer be tolerated," Nucor President and CEO John Ferriola said. "The president’s action will allow us to realize a return on our investments, and will help get the industry on a more sustainable path long-term. The president’s decisive trade action and congressional leadership in enacting tax reform will ensure that the best days of the American steel industry are still to come.”
The Congressional Steel Caucus held the first day of its annual hearing on the state of the steel industry in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, and heard from a number of U.S. steel executives.
The United States has long been a dumping ground for unsold steel at a time of record steelmaking overcapacity, estimated to be as much as 700 million tons, ArcelorMittal USA CEO John Brett said.
“As China dumps its steel in other markets, those producers suffer and look for alternatives — often in the United States," Brett said. "China’s largest export market is South Korea. One of South Korea’s largest export markets is the United States. That’s the way the steel flows. The industry has aggressively used the trade remedy tools the Congress has provided. But they aren’t fully doing the job. With our country by country remedies, we are playing ‘Whack-A-Mole’ with global imports, and the mole is winning."
But the tariffs are helping to revive shuttered steel mills that have lain dormant since the most recent import crisis peaked in 2015.
“President Trump’s Section 232 action recognizes that, for too long, the status quo approaches to steel imports were failing our country’s security," U.S. Steel CEO David Burritt said. "America cannot afford to outsource an industry as vital to security as steel. At United States Steel Corporation, we’re already working to do our part. We’re restarting steelmaking operations at Granite City Works, calling back workers, and continuing to support our customers with the high-quality products they have come to expect from our company for more than a century.”
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, said steelworkers, the United Steelworkers union and steel companies have fought for years to fight the unfair dumping of steel that's often heavily subsidized by foreign governments. Congress must be vigilant to ensure the tariffs are enforced, especially since the administration is looking to cut funding for the International Trade Commission and the International Trade Administration that are responsible for administering the tariffs, he said.
"On a legal and level playing field, American steelworkers can compete with anyone in the world, and the U.S. government has a responsibility to ensure that a legal and level playing field is maintained every day," Visclosky testified at the Congressional hearing. "As we move forward, I will continue to closely follow how the steel tariffs are being implemented, including any developments as it relates to the timeframe or duration of the tariffs, and exemptions or modifications for countries or products."
More work needs to be done, such as to restore Buy America provisions that the administration is looking to remove from the federal budget, Visclosky said.
"Our steel producers and steelworkers are innovative, efficient, and environmentally responsible, and they must be able to fairly compete in our global economy," he said. "You have my assurance that as the 115th Congress proceeds, I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Congressional Steel Caucus to press for the effective implementation of these new steel tariffs and the strong enforcement of all of our trade laws in order to ensure that American steel companies and steelworkers are able to compete on a level playing field."