Trump Takes On Foreign Steelmakers
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Trump Takes On Foreign Steelmakers

Steel mill, Czech Republic

Commerce Secretary Says Imports Are ‘National Security’ Issue

Trump’s Commerce Department is launching a broad assault on foreign steelmakers Trump blames for the decades-long decline of the U.S. steel industry.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, is using an arcane Cold War-era law, the Trade Expansion Act, to open investigations that would let him restrict imports.

“As you know, steel has been a very important issue in the president’s campaign for office and in his actions subsequent to being in office,” Ross told reporters.

Ross plans to hold a public hearing on May 24 to help determine whether steel imports threaten national security. Ross also plans to slap a tariff on imports from Canada of lumber from trees such as spruce and fir and is expected to probe aluminum imports.

Trump, who built his fortune in part building with foreign steel, won the electoral vote in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin that have been hurt by cheap imported steel. Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania, once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, went bankrupt in 2001. Wisconsin Steel shuttered its Chicago plant in 1980.

Trump said on the campaign trail that he would ensure using American steel “just like the American steel from Pennsylvania that built the Empire State Building.”

But Trump used imports to build at least some of his own skyscrapers, choosing the chance of higher profits over supporting struggling union workers in our America. And he hid that choice behind shell companies.

The Trump International Hotel Las Vegas was built with steel from the Ossen (Jiujiang) Steel Wire & Cable Co. Ltd. In Shanghai. The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago was built with aluminum from China.

ACTION BOX / What you can do about it

Call Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross at 202-482-2000 or write him at 1401 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20230.

A public hearing will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24 at the U.S. Department of Commerce auditorium, 1401 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20230. Requests to speak should be sent to Brad Botwin, Director, Industrial Studies, Office of Technology Evaluation, Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, Room 1093, 1401 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20230 or by email to Steel232@bis.doc.gov, by May 17.

Other comments may be sent until May 31. The document number to use in writing is 2017-08499.

Ross, now also purportedly acting to help steelworkers, also profited on their backs. He bought the Bethlehem Steel after the company went bankrupt. Retirees lost pension benefits. Ross made about $300 million.

Analysts at Fitch Ratings expect Trump’s trumped-up interest in helping American steel to, at best, temporarily help the industry.

U.S. Steel laid off a fourth of its salaried employees. The company just had its biggest stock collapse since going public 26 years ago.

“Investment in new integrated steel production in North America is not expected given the price tags in the billions and mature domestic markets,” the Fitch analysts wrote.

 

 

April 27, 2017