Biden comes out against sale of U.S. Steel to Japan’s Nippon Steel

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By ELIZABETH DONALD
Illinois Correspondent

PRESIDENT BIDEN talks about rebuilding communities and creating well-paying jobs during a visit to Milwaukee on March 13. – Kevin Lamarque/Reuters photo

Washington – President Joe Biden has come out against the sale of U.S. Steel to Japan-based Nippon Steel, making his opinion known last week, March 14.

“U.S. Steel has been an iconic American steel company for more than a century, and it is vital for it to remain an American steel company that is domestically owned and operated,” Biden said.

Biden has taken the side of unionized workers at the risk of upsetting the business community and U.S. international allies in Japan, according to the Associated Press. Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump has also said he opposes the sale.

Nippon Steel has offered nearly $15 billion for Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, bypassing the consent of United Steelworkers (USW) and drawing the attention of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Nippon has promised to keep the company’s name and Pittsburgh headquarters and has said it will honor existing union contracts. That has not assuaged the concerns of the United Steelworkers.

For its part, the USW believes the president’s statements should end the debate.

‘HAS OUR BACKS’
“President Biden told USW members he has our backs, and there’s no question that he meant it,” said USW International President David McCall. “We’re grateful for his unfailing support and his ongoing commitment to advancing the interests of working families and their communities.”

McCall said the union shares Biden’s concerns over the long-term implications for the sale, both for national security and economic growth.

“Allowing one of our nation’s largest steel manufacturers to be purchased by a foreign-owned corporation leaves us vulnerable when it comes to meeting both our defense and critical infrastructure needs,” he said.

Last week, USW released a statement following a meeting with Nippon Steel Executive Vice President Takahiro Mori that USW said “yielded no progress and ended in less than one hour.” McCall said Nippon has not earned the trust of the USW, and they are convinced the company does not fully understand its obligations to steelworkers, retirees and the communities.

HIGHLY UNUSUAL
Experts told the Washington Post that it was highly unusual for a president to declare his opinion before the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. had finished its examination.

“I am unaware of any president preemptively signaling he may oppose an acquisition that is undergoing national security review, much less an acquisition by a company from a treaty partner that we are obligated to defend with U.S. troops,” Dan Price, managing director at Rock Creek Global Advisors, told the Washington Post.

Price was the top White House official on international trade and investment during the George W. Bush administration.

GRANITE CITY STEEL MILL
Locally, the Granite City steel mill hangs in the balance. The workers there are already facing a mass layoff as U.S. Steel opted to idle the mill indefinitely, a move that many indicated was intended to shift more steelmaking away from union plants into so-called “right-to-work” states.

U.S. Steel’s stock price dropped 13 percent on the advance warning of Biden’s statement on March 13, according to the Washington Post. Business leaders such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have advocated for the Nippon deal, warning that blocking it could discourage foreign investment in the U.S. and cause other countries to block U.S. investments overseas.

The president’s declaration will likely become a topic at the April 10 summit between Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, aimed at boosting the two countries’ security alliance in the face of growing Chinese strength, according to Reuters.

In the interim, Biden is campaigning in Saginaw, Mich., which was once home to multiple General Motors plants. Biden has been courting union votes in swing states, according to NPR. He has gained endorsements from United Auto Workers, the AFL-CIO and more than two dozen other national unions.

The 122-year-old U.S. Steel is an iconic American company, but has fallen to third-largest steelmaker in the country behind Nucor and Cleveland-Cliffs. The latter had made a bid to buy the ailing steelmaker and had the backing of the steelworkers union.


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