WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar asked U.S. Secretary of Commerce nominee Wilbur Ross about steel dumping. In today’s testimony in front of Klobuchar and other senators on the Commerce Committee, Ross agreed with Klobuchar that more must be done to cut down on the illegal dumping of steel from countries like China. Ross also agreed to work with our allies on steel dumping and to work with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to crack down on illegal shipments of steel to our shores and to collect countervailing duties. Ross has been endorsed by the United Steelworkers.
A transcript of Klobuchar’s exchange today with Ross is below:
Klobuchar: I want to lead with something you and I discussed and that is iron ore and steel. My state, as you know, is one of the leading producers of iron ore. It’s in my family. My grandfather worked as an iron ore miner fifteen hundred feet underground for most of his life. We’ve had an incredible downturn due in part to overcapacity but also due to steel dumping, which is illegal. 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. I wondered if you could address how you would build on this work and improve it even more for our hardworking miners and people in the steel industry.
Ross: Sure, as you can appreciate I probably have greater familiarity with mining than most people up for this position. The fundamental problem with the steel industry is overcapacity, particularly in China. China has one billion tons of capacity. That’s half of the world’s capacity. They need something like 700 million tons domestically. They are actually producing 800 million tons and putting 100 million tons out into the world markets, often at dumping prices. 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. 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.
Klobuchar: As you know they just launched the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity in Berlin in December, so I assume you’ll be willing to work with our allies on that?
Ross: Absolutely, I know many of them anyway because Arcelor had been very active throughout Europe.
Klobuchar: And will you work with our Customs and Border Patrol? You and I discussed that, the issue of these shipments coming in with illegal steel.
Ross: Yes, one of the things that horrified me as I studied about enforcement was there literally is billions of dollars of countervailing duties that are never collected. The foreigners set up little shell companies here, we impose a duty, there is nobody home when we come time to collect. 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.
Klobuchar: Thank you, I appreciate that and I think that’s one of the reasons you just got the Steelworkers support, Leo Gerard in a letter dated January 9th.
Klobuchar has been a leader in efforts to fight foreign steel dumping and provide support for U.S. steelworkers and miners affected by layoffs. Klobuchar has introduced legislation to crack down on illegal steel dumping by strengthening trade enforcement. Following consistent pressure from her, in 2014 USITC voted to impose penalties on Mexican, Turkish, and Korean companies dumping steel in the U.S. She also advocated with Senator Al Franken and Representative Rick Nolan to successfully urge the U.S. Department of Labor to expedite approval of TAA petitions submitted by workers from the affected mining operations.
Klobuchar invited White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough to the Iron Range in December of 2015 and urged him to bring the concerns of Iron Rangers and all those affected by steel dumping directly to the president. She then invited Dan Hill, a laid-off steelworker from Eveleth who attended the meeting, to be her guest at the president’s State of the Union Address. Last February, after efforts from Klobuchar, the Administration announced new actions to combat steel dumping. The actions included new Customs and Border Patrol personnel to enforce our trade laws, stepped up inspections of steel imports at our ports of entry, and increased personnel at the Commerce Department to help ensure tariffs are enforced against those who dump steel in the U.S. The president also signed legislation that provides additional tools to more aggressively enforce anti-dumping provisions under existing federal law.
For a broadcast-quality video excerpt of Klobuchar’s remarks, click here.