Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Trump orders steel imports probe

Calls it a matter of national security

- By Tracie Mauriello

WASHINGTON — After signing a memorandum Thursday ordering an investigat­ion into foreign steel coming into U.S. markets, President Donald Trump joked about whom he should give the pen to: “To labor or to steel?” he asked to laughter in the Oval Office. “How about we give it to the union for a change, should we do that?” He did so.

Mr. Trump said that he had pledged in his campaign that he would take action on behalf of American workers, which was “one of the primary reasons I’m sitting here today as president.”

“Since the day I took office, I have followed through on that promise big league, beginning with

our withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnershi­p.” He said he was proud of that withdrawal, which would have been “another NAFTA disaster.”

Mr. Trump described his memorandum as one that “would prioritize the investigat­ion that began yesterday, and really, long before that” of foreign steel arriving in U.S. markets, and its effect on national security.

“Maintainin­g the production of American steel is extremely important to our national security and our defense industrial base,” he said. “Steel is critical to both our economy and our military. This is not an area where we can afford to become dependent on foreign countries.”

Based on the findings of the report, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will make formal recommenda­tions to the White House “in the very, very near future,” he said. His action was “the next vital step toward making America strong and prosperous once again.”

The Commerce Department investigat­ion could be completed in as little as 50 days, he said.

In a briefing Thursday morning, Mr. Ross said the review would consider how much steel the U.S. needs to defend itself, and whether current domestic capacity meets those requiremen­ts. Steel imports now make up more than 26 percent of the entire U.S. marketplac­e, and the report will examine to what extent those imports impinge on U.S. economic and national defense security, Mr. Ross said.

The investigat­ion could result in a recommenda­tion that United States impose broad tariffs on the steel industry, Mr. Ross said. “The important question is protecting our defense needs. And we will do whatever is necessary to do that, but we’ve come to no conclusion yet, because the study is just recently begun.”

The investigat­ion, which was self-initiated by the Commerce Department, rather than the steel industry itself, revives a section of a little-used trade law, the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. Section 232 of the law allows the government to impose a wide variety of barriers on steel imports for national security reasons. It does not focus on a particular country, but analysts say the order is likely to be wielded against China, which has about half of the world’s steel capacity and has flooded the global market with cheap steel in recent years.

In response to a shouted question about how this will affect dealings with China on North Korea, Mr. Trump answered: “This has nothing to do with China. This has to do with worldwide, what’s happening. The dumping problem is a worldwide problem.”

U.S. Steel welcomed the investigat­ion, saying “a strong steel industry is at the foundation of America's economic and national security.”

“Tens of thousands of workers in the American steel industry, the industry's supply chain and the communitie­s in which our industry operates have lost their jobs due to unfair and illegal practices by foreign producers,” the Pittsburgh­based steelmaker said in a statement.

Mr. Trump's action lit a fire under steel stocks Thursday. U.S. Steel jumped more than 7 percent to close at $30.51, up $2.09.

Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, applauded the action.

“Times of crisis call for extraordin­ary measures. Massive global steel overcapaci­ty has resulted in record levels of dumped and subsidized foreign steel coming into the U.S. and the loss of nearly 14,000 steel jobs,” he said in a statement. “The Administra­tion launching this investigat­ion is an impactful way to help address the serious threat posed by these unfair foreign trade practices, and we applaud this bold action.The domestic steel industry is the backbone of our manufactur­ing sector, and our continued ability to meet our national security needs is dependent on the industry remaining competitiv­e in the global marketplac­e. We stand ready to work with the Administra­tion on this initiative.”

Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticu­t said that although it was a “step forward,” she would hold the administra­tion accountabl­e “on its promises to fight for working Americans. Already, Mr. Trump has backed off on his promise to only use American steel for the Keystone XL pipeline, and he has walked back his commitment to hold China accountabl­e for its decades of strategic currency misalignme­nt.”

She continued in her statement: “Our workers have been crushed by the Chinese steel overcapaci­ty dumped into American markets and millions of good paying jobs have been lost. China is not a market economy, and we cannot continue to leave our workers exposed to non-market competitio­n by the Chinese Communist Party.”

 ??  ?? Leo Gerard, center, United Steelworke­rs Union Internatio­nal president, receives the pen Thursday after President Donald Trump signed the Memorandum Regarding the Investigat­ion Pursuant to Section 232(B) of the Trade Expansion Act at the White House in...
Leo Gerard, center, United Steelworke­rs Union Internatio­nal president, receives the pen Thursday after President Donald Trump signed the Memorandum Regarding the Investigat­ion Pursuant to Section 232(B) of the Trade Expansion Act at the White House in...

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