Trade Cases

Letter to the Editor: ‘Where is the Threat?’

Written by Tim Triplett

As if it is not enough to call every ton of imported steel “dumped,” “subsidized” or “unfairly priced,” steelmakers are now using a scare tactic by telling our politicians we need a strong domestic steel industry in the interest of national security. As a Bloomberg report pointed out, less than 3 percent of the steel consumed in the USA is going into the defense industry. Even the energy sector consumes only about 6 percent. That’s about 1 million tons for these two important industries. Where is the threat?

Of the 10 largest exporters of steel into the USA, eight are close allies, which includes about 25 percent coming from our NAFTA partners, who also happen to be the destination of 85 percent of our steel exports. Three of these are NATO members. Take out Russia and China if you want, but other than this where is the threat?

If a healthy domestic steel industry is so important for our national steel security, why have the majority of the expansions and acquisitions in the last decade been done by foreign companies such as ArcelorMittal, ThyssenKrupp, Evraz, NLMK, Essar, JSW, Vale and Gerdau? With the exception of Nucor and Big River, no domestic steelmaker has made a major expansion. The last blast furnace built in the USA was in 1967 in Burns Harbor.

After WWII, the USA was the major industrial powerhouse in steelmaking and steel processing. We lost names such as Bethlehem Steel, Republic Steel, Armco, Lukens and others. While competition from imports certainly played a role, it was mostly due to old technologies, high wages and outdated equipment that these companies went out of business. Steelmaking equipment used to be made in the USA; today almost everything is imported.

The U.S. steel industry has looked for help from Washington for over 50 years. Except for Nucor, SDI, Big River and possibly CMC, most companies are too weak financially to engage in modernization.

Closing the borders to imports is not going to be the solution. It will only kill a lot more jobs in other industries than can possibly be saved in the steel industry. 

Steel Trader

(name withheld on request)

Note: Steel Market Update welcomes letters to the editor. SMU will honor authors’ requests for confidentiality in cases where they may suffer repercussions for expressing their views. We reserve the right to edit comments for style and clarity, and to decline to publish letters we feel are inaccurate or inappropriate.

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