Trump packs trade team with vet­er­ans of China steel wars

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

WASH­ING­TON:

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is stack­ing his trade tran­si­tion team with vet­er­ans of the US steel in­dus­try’s bat­tles with China, sig­nal­ing a po­ten­tially more ag­gres­sive ap­proach to US com­plaints of un­fair Chi­nese sub­si­dies for its ex­ports and bar­ri­ers to im­ports.

Led by Wil­bur Ross, a bil­lion­aire steel in­vestor and Trump’s nom­i­nee for com­merce sec­re­tary, Dan DiMicco, the for­mer CEO of steel­maker Nu­cor Corp, and three vet­eran steel trade lawyers, the team is ex­pected to help shift the US trade fo­cus more heav­ily to­ward en­force­ment ac­tions aimed at bring­ing down a chronic US trade deficit, Wash­ing­ton trade ex­perts said.

Based on their past ef­forts, this could in­clude more chal­lenges to China’s trade prac­tices through the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion and more US gov­ern­ment-ini­ti­ated anti-dump­ing and anti-sub­sidy cases against a wider range of Chi­nese prod­ucts. The lat­ter would be ar­gued be­fore the US International Trade Com­mis­sion - a fo­rum where the steel in­dus­try has had con­sid­er­able suc­cess.

Ross, DiMicco and other lead­ers of Big Steel have been on the front-line in US trade bat­tles against the world’s ex­port su­per­power. Hit by a flood of cheap im­ports from China and other coun­tries, the US steel in­dus­try has brought 16 new cases in the past three years, seek­ing puni­tive du­ties from the Com­merce De­part­ment to com­bat be­low-cost dump­ing and un­fair sub­si­dies that slashed prices of var­i­ous steel prod­ucts to his­toric lows last year, caus­ing lay­offs at US steel mills.

Some of these cases have re­sulted in mas­sive penal­ties against Chi­nese im­ports, in­clud­ing du­ties of more than 500 per­cent on Chi­nese col­drolled steel used in au­tos and ap­pli­ances. Lawyers Robert Lighthizer and Jef­frey Ger­rish have rep­re­sented United States Steel and Stephen Vaughn has rep­re­sented AK Steel in these cases. The three are also part of Trump’s trade team.

Lighthizer, Ger­rish, Vaughn, Ross and DiMicco ei­ther de­clined to com­ment for this story or did not re­spond to Reuters’ re­quests for in­ter­views. Trade ex­perts fa­mil­iar with their views and their his­tory of con­fronta­tion with China, how­ever, say they will not be afraid to push the lim­its of what is le­gal un­der World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion rules in de­fense of US trade in­ter­ests.

Lighthizer, who along with DiMicco is con­sid­ered a strong can­di­date to be the new U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, is known for his work dur­ing the Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion pres­sur­ing Ja­pan into vol­un­tary ex­port re­straints. —Reuters

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