WASHINGTON – Amid falling steel prices that have led to the closure of two Iron Range taconite plants, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation and the Dayton Administration on Friday pushed the Obama Administration to act on what they described as illegal trade practices.
Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, 8th District U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith met with Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman at the White House on Friday morning.
The discussion centered on legislation that would shorten the amount of time it takes to determine whether foreign companies are exporting products to the U.S. at a loss, according to Klobuchar.
“I think the more we can show strength in changing our laws as a country, the more quickly some of these foreign governments will see that we mean business and hopefully we can get the plants opening again,” said Klobuchar.
Earlier this month, U.S. Steel announced that it was temporarily idling its Keetac plant on the Iron Range and laying off 412 workers. Last month, Magnetation announced it was closing an Iron Range plant and laying off nearly 50 people.
The lawmakers and the steel industry blame unfair foreign competition for the industry’s woes, in particular cheap imports from Asia and Australia.
“American steel companies are being irreparably harmed by illegal trade practices,” said U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi to members of Congress on Thursday.
But the industry’s problems are also compounded by the strong dollar, which makes imports much cheaper, and a strong U.S. economy in which demand for steel continues to grow.