Ignoring senators and steelworkers, Trump Commerce Secretary stalls decision on steel imports

PRESIDENT TRUMP PROMISED to fight for U.S. jobs but he hasn’t done much of a job of it. His Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (right) recently delayed a decision on whether imports of subsidized foreign steel – which cost U.S. steelworkers’ jobs – can be curtailed on national security grounds. Meanwhile, foreign nations are increasing their steel coming into the U.S., trying to unload as much as possible before and IF, the administration takes action. – AFP photo

In the meantime, more U.S. workers lose their jobs

PAI Staff Writer

Washington (PAI) — Ignoring bipartisan protests from three senators and legislative lobbying by the Steelworkers, Trump administration Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has delayed a decision on whether imports of subsidized foreign steel – which cost U.S. steelworkers’ jobs – can be curtailed on national security grounds.

And every day he stalls, the senators warn, foreign nations increase their steel coming into the U.S., getting it in under the wire before the administration lowers the boom. And in the meantime, more U.S. workers lose jobs, they add.

The Steelworkers, who have pushed the issue for most of year, aren’t happy either.

“The time to act is now, and workers are telling politicians their first-hand stories of the devastation in the industry and the critical importance of providing relief,” said Steelworkers President Leo Gerard as his union sent members from eight steel states to Capitol Hill.

“Despite reports the investigation has been completed, the public release of the document has not occurred, and no relief has been provided,” the union said in a statement when its members headed for D.C. to lobby on the issue, the week before Ross’ statement.


Ross announced the delay in interviews with Bloomberg News and CNBC on Sept. 22, barely a week after Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH), representing a leading steel production state, urged him to move on the import issue.

Ross also unveiled it without telling Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which handles trade issues. Wyden learned of Ross’ delay by reading the story.


The Steelworkers and the industry asked the Trump administration early this year to investigate whether the imports are a threat to national security, because they force U.S. steel plants to close, throw Steelworkers out of jobs and ultimately would make the U.S. military dependent on steel from China – whose overcapacity and subsidies give it half the world’s steel production – and Russia.

If so, Trump could invoke the little-used Section 232 of U.S. trade law, which allows curbs and tariffs on imports that jeopardize national security. Unlike other sections of trade law, foreign nations can’t appeal Section 232 rulings to the World Trade Organization. In April, Trump told Ross to go ahead with the probe.

To push Ross, Steelworkers from eight Great Lakes steel-producing states descended on Washington, the union reported. And Brown and Casey sent their letter.

IMPORTS OF SUBSIDIZED foreign steel are costing U.S. steelworkers’ jobs while the Trump administration drags its feet on whether the imports can be curtailed on national security grounds. – Global Trade Magazine photo

But Ross told Bloomberg the Section 232 report and recommendation will be delayed while the administration turns its attention to the tax revision legislation it is trying to draft – a measure that would cut corporate taxes and taxes for the rich.

That irked Wyden and the Steelworkers.


“The administration is creating a crisis for American steel of its own making. By prematurely announcing a poorly defined investigation into foreign steel imports, Commerce invited a flood of new imports looking to get ahead of new tariffs,” Senator Wyden said.

“Now, by delaying a decision, the administration is only amplifying the damage these imports will do to American steelworkers and mills already suffering from a global glut of foreign steel.”

“Since April, when the president called for the initiation of an investigation on the impact of imports of steel on our national security interests, imports have surged almost 21 percent. The delay in acting is further undermining our national security and critical infrastructure interests,” the United Steelworkers added.

“Plants are closing, jobs are lost and communities are injured while politicians delay. Now there are rumors action is being delayed so Congress can focus on tax reform,” Steelworkers Vice President Tom Conway added.

“That’s an insult to the hardworking men and women whose jobs depend on the industry. Steelworker jobs and our national security should not be held hostage to tax cuts for the rich and powerful as America’s future is at risk.”


Brown and Portman said the decision to announce the probe only made matters worse. The U.S. steel situation will continue to deteriorate – and workers will continue to lose jobs – the longer Commerce drags its feet. That’s because big foreign steel exporters will rush to send as much steel as they can to the U.S. before Trump invokes Section 232, they added.

Overall, steel imports by U.S. firms rose 25 percent in the first six months of this year, compared to the first six months of 2016, the Ohioans said. That includes a 248 percent increase in tubular steel and increases of 155 percent-195 percent in grain-oriented electrical steel from Japan, Korea and China. “These increases are unsustainable for U.S. companies and their workers,” they warned.

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