Action for American steel: We must not let unlawful dumping ruin an industry – by the Editorial Board (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – April 14, 2016)

Steel dumping, principally by China, has become an American national crisis with particular importance to southwestern Pennsylvania. It requires a decisive U.S. government response on an urgent basis.

The problem is as complex as the world’s steel industry, involving production, consumption and international trade. In recent years America has been home to seven major companies, with 149,000 people employed in mills and 69,000 in foundries. Some 13,500 steelworkers are facing layoffs today. U.S. steel imports last year reached a record 29 percent of U.S. consumption.

There are many reasons for this dilemma. One of these is global steel overcapacity, estimated at 700 million metric tons, seven times U.S. production. China’s government-controlled industry leads the way in excess. Its production climbed from 2000 to 2014 by 540 percent, even as the Chinese economy’s own demand for steel has slumped. China exports its steel at “cooked” prices below fair market value, carrying out what is basically dumping.

American steel companies are thus in a mess. They can’t compete with China’s government-manipulated production and exports. The American economy buys steel primarily for the automotive, construction and energy sectors, which constitute three-quarters of the U.S. demand.

These companies quite naturally do not want to pay more for steel just to “buy American,” even if they should. Such action on their part would reduce their global competitiveness. The currently strong U.S. dollar doesn’t help either.

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