Opinion

Keep Steel Jobs in the U.S., Make China Play by Our Rules

By Roger Newport , Cristobal Fuentes & Olli-Matti Saksi
January 31, 2020 at 5:00 am ET

As the chief executives of stainless steel producers in the U.S., whose stainless steel operations employ over 5,000 Americans across the country in Alabama, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania, we urge the president and his administration to stay the course on their successful trade policy. The administration must refuse to waive the important national security tariffs on Chinese stainless steel slab imported from Indonesia under the guise of a partnership with a U.S. company.

Across his first term, President Donald Trump made good on his campaign promise to level the playing field for U.S. workers in the global economy through an ambitious trade agenda. Under his guidance, the U.S. modernized NAFTA and brought China to the negotiating table. And importantly for our businesses, he implemented tariffs to stop foreign producers from flooding our market with unfairly priced stainless steel produced with Chinese-government backing, undermining the domestic industry and our national security.

Implementation of the steel tariff has bolstered the American steel industry, propelling investments in American jobs and re-opening idled plants. We play by the rules, purchasing almost all our raw materials in the U.S. But calls from one business for special treatment to save 100 jobs in a politically important state could ultimately jeopardize every American stainless steel job by letting the fox into the hen house.

The business in question — Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) — made waves earlier this year when it publicly claimed that buying American stainless steel was not an option and that unless President Trump granted their request to import Chinese-government subsidized stainless steel, 100 Pennsylvania jobs would be lost.

Here’s the truth: our companies and the hard-working Americans we employ can and would supply the company with the stainless steel they need. Right now, ATI is sourcing slabs from a Chinese-owned steel mill in Indonesia at dumped prices, despite the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariff on steel imports. That mill is owned by Tsingshan Holdings, the government-backed Chinese steel company with whom ATI has a joint venture. 

ATI is asking for a sweetheart deal under the cover of election-year politics that would allow ATI and its partner to flood the U.S. market with subsidized Indonesian slabs, without paying the tariff. This will only increase their profit margins, which was admitted to shareholders, while depressing U.S. prices and threatening thousands of stainless steel-making jobs in American plants — including others in Pennsylvania.

The Trump administration rightfully denied ATI’s exclusion request under Section 232 and should do so again. If saving jobs is the metric for exclusion requests, we have ATI covered by magnitudes. This company is not making steel; it is finishing dumped foreign steel — a decision ATI made after idling its slab-making capabilities and laying off workers, citing an inability to compete with imports.

Now they want to use dumped imports to improve their bottom line and fulfill the Chinese government’s goal of destabilizing the U.S. stainless steel industry.

ATI wants to reap rewards from the very practices the tariffs are intended to eliminate, committed by the worst of actors: China, which exploits every market it enters. We implore you, Mr. President: Save our jobs, not those of ATI’s Chinese business partner.

 

Roger Newport is CEO of AK Steel Corporation and Chairman of the American Iron and Steel Institute; Cristobal Fuentes is President and CEO of North American Stainless; and, Olli-Matti Saksi is President of Outokumpu Stainless USA.

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