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Senators ask Trump to press China on steel

Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar, left and Al Franken, right, confer on Tuesday, June 29, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Rafael Suanes/MCT)

Eight U.S. senators representing steel and iron ore producing states on Wednesday called on President Donald Trump to press Chinese officials on illegal steel dumping when leaders of the two nations meet this week.

The senators say government-subsidized Chinese steel has been dumped into the U.S. market in recent years below cost, hurting the domestic steel industry and the iron ore industry that feeds it.

Trump is set to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Florida on Thursday.

The senators — all Democrats, including Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania — called on Trump to raise the steel issue directly with the Chinese president.

Klobuchar asked the President to continue strong enforcement of U.S. trade laws and to work with President Xi to stop China from unfairly subsidizing their domestic industries and reduce their overcapacity.

"You have consistently reaffirmed your commitment to supporting steelworker jobs, and Chinese steel dumping is a major contributor to American manufacturing job loss. As senators from leading steel and iron ore producing states, we have seen firsthand how this steel dumping has displaced American steelworkers," the senators wrote to Trump. "We hope that you will continue to strongly enforce our trade laws. In addition to building on the progress that has been made thus far, we respectfully urge you to make it clear to President Xi that Chinese steel dumping and illegal trade practices are unacceptable."

China produces half of the world's steel supply and the senators claim that production is heavily subsidized.

Moreover, the senators said a recent lawsuit filed against Chinese steel producers also raises more disturbing allegations such as illegal conspiracy to fix prices and control output and export volumes; the theft of trade secrets by industrial espionage; and the circumvention of hard-won duties ordered by the International Trade Commission and Department of Commerce by false labeling and transshipment.

"The impact of Chinese steel produced with these unfair methods of competition and other illegal practices has profoundly harmful impacts on our national economic health and our nation's national security interests," the letter noted. "We desperately need stronger enforcement against foreign competitors who cheat by dumping subsidized goods into the U.S. market."

Domestic industries have filed a series of antidumping and countervailing duty cases with the United States International Trade Commission, resulting in tariffs as high as 522 percent against foreign steel companies. The Department of Commerce has significantly increased enforcement action against companies who break our trade laws. Currently, the Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security are enforcing 149 antidumping orders against foreign steel companies.

Those efforts started under the Obama administration have been credited with a recent resurgence in U.S. steel production and increased production and employment at Minnesota taconite iron ore operations, most of which are back to full capacity after struggling in 2015 and 2016.

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