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Klobuchar, Franken push anti steel-dumping bill

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have introduced legislation to crack down on illegal steel dumping in an effort to bolster the U.S. iron ore and steel industries.

The Minnesota Democrats said the illegal dumping of steel products by foreign countries — allegedly at below cost and in violation of trade agreements — is killing jobs both on the Iron Range where iron ore is mined and in U.S. steel mill towns where the ore is made into steel.

The bill, dubbed the Trade Enforcement Improvement Act, is aimed at streamlining and strengthening U.S. efforts to enforce trade laws, including:

• Allowing duties to be imposed retroactively in cases where an industry is judged to be facing critical circumstances.

• Allowing duties to be imposed even further in advance before critical harm is done to a domestic industry facing the threat of material injury.

• Requiring the publication of a list of duty evaders to help raise public awareness and assist law enforcement.

The bill, S-2299, was introduced Wednesday and referred to the Finance Committee. There are no other co-authors as of now and no corresponding House bill as yet.

A huge increase in the amount of cheap foreign steel is blamed for undercutting sales of domestic steel in the U.S. and drastically reducing demand for Minnesota iron ore. The issue has been made worse by a huge increase of cheap iron ore globally.

The end result has been devastating to the Iron Range where 7 of 11 major iron ore facilities are either closed or are about to close in coming weeks, putting some 1,500 people out of work.

"Our steelworkers can compete with anyone in the world, but when foreign producers dump cheap steel in our country, it undercuts our domestic industry and puts American steelworker jobs at risk," Klobuchar said in a statement released Thursday. "While we have recently taken steps to help fight foreign dumping, more and more mining operations are being forced to idle and it is clear more must be done."

Franken said the playing field in global steel sales "has been tilted by foreign competitors illegally dumping steel into the market. Recently, we have seen far too many facilities idle and close. Although we've taken measures to stop dumping, this legislation will further crack down on illegal practices. We need to do everything we can to fight for our workers and producers."

The two senators, along with U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, have been active throughout the year in pushing the federal government and U.S. Trade Commission to crack down on illegal foreign dumping. They also are working to make sure federal agencies are quick to respond with programs aimed at helping workers displaced due to global trade issues, including the Trade Adjustment Assistance program that provides education and job training assistance to those affected by trade.