U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar brought the issue of illegal steel dumping right to the doorstep of the Trump Administration on Wednesday.
The Senate Commerce Committee questioned Wilbur Ross, the nominee for U.S. Secretary of Commerce, on several issues before his nomination is brought to the full voting body. And Klobuchar, D-Minn., went straight to the point on recent tariffs and the steel industry.
“We’ve had an incredible downturn due in part to overcapacity but also due to steel dumping, which is illegal,” she said while asking how he would continue anti-dumping efforts. “And recently there has been some good actions taken by the Commerce Department. Congress has given more funds, which has been helpful, and we’ve seen a bit of improvement.”
Ross said he would work with allies and federal agencies to continue the crackdown that dealt the U.S. steel industry a major setback in 2015. He has been previously endorse by the United Steelworkers union.
“And so I think one of the things where we do need very careful attention to more tariff activity is the anti-dumping requirements that we should impose on the steel industry and on the aluminum industry as well,” Ross told the committee. “That’s a very big issue and unfortunately until fairly recently Europe was even more reticent to impose countervailing duties than we are. But finally they seem to be feeling the pinch of it and they are starting to come around as well.”
On working with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol toward fighting illegal shipments, Ross said he was “horrified” by the countervailing duties never collected.
“The foreigners set up little shell companies here, we impose a duty, there is nobody home when we come time to collect,” he said. “I think that kind of thing has to be fixed. There is not much point going through a multi-year trade case, and in case you win, you don’t even collect the countervailing duties. That doesn’t change anybody’s behavior and it is a loss of revenue to the federal government.”
Ross is a billionaire investor and former banking that specializes in restructuring bankrupt companies. He has previous experience in the steel and coal industries.
Klobuchar helped push for tariffs during the 2015 steel crisis, and with the Minnesota delegation, invited White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Iron Range, a major turning point in efforts.