Steel Executives meet the Gov’mt

Steel Executives meet the Gov’mt

The following was reported in Steel Business briefing yesterday. There are discussions between legislators and steel executives about keeping specialty steel production alive in the USA as well as shipbuilding and infrastructure projects. Here is the full piece. Quite interesting.

“Now that steel is more prominent on the Washington DC radar screen thanks to Donald Trump, checking the coordinates — the details — has become the next order of business.

Steel state legislators and American steel executives extended the process Wednesday at the first Congressional Steel Caucus Annual Hearing since Trump’s election. The hearing was subtitled “America Rebounding: Steel in 2017 and Beyond.”

While there was much of the usual discussion about government infrastructure spending and unfair trade legislation — both expected to get a boost under Trump’s presidency — the hearing participants also drilled down to unearth a much wider range of topics.

Some new points of discussion, framed mostly in economic, infrastructure and national defense terms, included:

— The necessity of having strong electrical steel production to overhaul America’s electricity grid. There is currently only one US producer of grain-oriented electrical steel due to import penetration.

— The need for more steel-intensive large ships, for both defense and increased commercial activity stemming from oil and gas export opportunities.

— The importance of a healthy specialty steel industry for niche military applications.

— A particular focus on pipe and tube production where domestic mills have invested hundreds of millions of dollars but have idle mills due to heavy import penetration. United Steelworkers union International VP Tom Conway, who joined steel executives on the hearing panel, suggested a quota system.

— Stricter Buy America provisions that would close loopholes allowing more foreign steel usage, such as the importation steel-intensive fabricated products.

“We are perilously close to having to depend on China,” said Ohio Congressman Bill Johnson, addressing domestic electrical steel supply. “The jobs issue is pretty important, but there is a national security issue that is just as important.”

Roger Newport, CEO of AK Steel, the lone American grain-oriented electrical steel producer since ATI Allegheny Ludlum dropped out of the market after the industry lost an unfair trade case in 2014, said imports now take 30% of the US market.

On trade matters, mill executives sought legislative help to generally shorten the time between trade case filings and when remedies are put in place – often a year or more; urged efforts to address WTO denials of US mill unfair trade actions, and supported government “self-initiation” of unfair trade cases to save the steel industry time and money on case preparation.

While both mill executives and steel-state legislators expressed optimism over President Trump’s $1 trillion infrastructure plan, several noted they were still awaiting details and one legislator seemingly sounded a warning. Indiana congressman Pete Visclosky, vice chairman of the Steel Caucus, noted that mass transit spending was “savaged” in the Trump administration’s recent budget proposal.”

— Tom Balcerek

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