Lawmakers, steel companies and unions urged a trade panel Wednesday to keep steel tariffs on some foreign imports for five more years. Carmakers and appliance manufacturers said it’s time to let competition back into the market.
“Unfortunately, unfairly traded imports of hot-rolled steel have continued to plague this industry and continued to harm steel workers and their families,” Rep. Ted Strickland (news, bio, voting record), D-Ohio, told the panel. “Now is not the time to terminate relief as the domestic hot-rolled steel industry has only just begun to recover.”
About two dozen other lawmakers from steel producing states, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina and Illinois, also testified in favor of keeping the tariffs.
But domestic manufacturers such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors Corp., Maytag Corp., Whirlpool Corp. and auto parts maker Dana Corp., told the trade panel that the tariffs are causing higher steel prices and harming their business.
“We believe that the restitution in this case are no longer needed,” said Jeff Engel, executive director for American production purchasing at Ford. “The industry has consolidated, it is competitive, it has recorded record profits and it is improving.”
The U.S. steel industry has rebounded and reorganized since the tariffs were first ordered. International Steel Group was born after merging several bankrupt steel companies, including LTV and Weirton, while U.S. Steel and Nucor each acquired other companies.
In 2004, the industry turned its first profit in years. But steel companies and unions say one year does not make a trend. They want the ITC to continue the tariffs so they can earn enough cash to ensure financial viability, make capital investments and fund retiree benefits.