By: U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions
For over 150 years, the steel industry has been a central part of Alabama’s economy and its workers have been a shared source of pride.
And it remains so. Today, the steel industry employs over 50,000 people in good jobs throughout our state. But the industry faces worldwide challenges, many from foreign-government-supported companies. It is critical we give our workers the full and just protections of our trade laws so they can fairly compete in a global marketplace. Ensuring a vital manufacturing core—especially steel—is essential to both our economic and national security. A strong nation produces, manufactures, and builds.
As international demand for steel has fallen, foreign manufacturers—with their government’s support—have targeted the U.S. market. Since 2008, imports have increased by a dramatic 60 percent. A recent Economic Policy Institute report stated that “surging imports of unfairly traded steel are threatening U.S. steel production, which supports more than a half million U.S. jobs across every state of the nation. The import surge has depressed domestic steel production and revenues, leading to sharp declines in net income in the U.S. steel industry over the past two years (2012–2013), layoffs for thousands of workers, and reduced wages for many more.”
Last year the Senate formed a bipartisan Steel Caucus to deal with the deep challenges our domestic steel industry is facing. As co-chair of the Senate Steel Caucus, I believe we must confront illicit trade practices overseas that undercut our own workers and industries. One action that is producing increased dumping of foreign steel is directly attributed to actions by China. They ship steel to a Korean corporation for processing, which then ships out its vast, new supply. Again, quoting the Economic Policy Institute, this new production will “account for more than a third of total excess global capacity, which now exceeds half a billion metric tons. Much of this capacity is targeted on the U.S. market, one of the largest and most open in the world.” Over the last year, I have called on the Department of Commerce to review and investigate the dumping of foreign steel on the U.S. market.
Earlier this month, responding in part to pressure from Congress and concerned citizens, the Department of Commerce announced it would impose tariffs on certain Korean steel pipe used in oil and gas extraction exported to the United States. This is a positive step in restoring balance in our trade markets; however, several other trade cases on steel products remain pending, including cases on rebar from Turkey and Mexico. The Department of Commerce must conduct an exhaustive investigation in these and other pending trade cases and take action to the fullest extent of the law. While much work remains to be done, I look forward to future gains in the steel industry and to holding trading partners accountable when they skirt trade laws. Our steel industry has never been more modern and efficient.
Trade, like any contract, must work for both parties—yet, too often, our trading policies have allowed these abuses and currency manipulation which have enriched other countries while eroding our own industry. Our economic policies too often raise the cost of doing business in America while reducing the cost of imported subsidized goods into America. Our goal, for workers and companies alike, should be more production of goods here in the U.S.—producing a rising standard of living for our citizens. No country can survive without manufacturing. In addition, we must focus a strong effort to end currency manipulation by trading partners, which gives them a big trade advantage.
The talent and work ethic of our citizens is the best in the world. They have built and sustained this country. Yet these accomplishments risk receding if we allow American industry to fail and our jobs to ship overseas. A smart trade policy, combined with a more competitive tax code and streamlined regulations, will keep more jobs here in the U.S.—and ensure that we remain the dominant economic force in the world.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) serves as the Ranking Member on the Senate Budget Committee. He is in his 3rd term in the Senate.