Steel Mills

Opposition to Nippon Steel’s proposed buy of U.S. Steel builds

Written by Laura Miller

Political opposition to Nippon Steel Corp.’s (NSC) proposed purchase of U.S. Steel continues to build.

As SMU reported earlier this week, US Sens. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) and John Fetterman (D-Pa.) spoke out opposing the acquisition.

Since then, a host of politicians have joined them in voicing their opposition to the deal, which is valued at more than $14 billion, citing concerns about national security and jobs.

Letter to CFIUS

Three US senators sent a letter to the US Treasury Secretary and chair of the Committee of Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS), Janet Yellen, urging the committee to block the acquisition. The committee is perhaps the one entity that could block such a transaction.

Signers of the letter included US Sens. J.D. Vance, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

“The transaction was not entered into with US national security in mind,” the letter says, noting that it was done with the sole desire of maximizing shareholders’ returns.

“Allowing foreign companies to buy out American companies and enjoy our trade protections subverts the very purpose for which those protections were put in place,” the senators’ letter adds.

The letter points out that, “As recently as August 2021, NSC was found guilty of unlawfully dumping flat-rolled steel products in the US market.”

“We urge the Committee to initiate a review of the transaction unilaterally, particularly in light of the fact that U.S. Steel received competitive bids from American companies who would not pose the same risks,” the senators concluded.

Comments from politicians representing areas where U.S. Steel operates

US Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called the news a “major blow to the American steel industry, which has been instrumental in making us the superpower of the world and a direct threat to our national security.”

“At a time when domestic manufacturing – including in the US steel market – is facing increased competition from unfair trade, we must be doing everything we can to prevent any further deterioration of American ownership,” Manchin added.

US Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he’s been troubled by production and job cuts at U.S. Steel’s Granite City Works in Illinois in recent years. The sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon, despite concerns from the workforce, raises even more questions and concerns, he said.

“The United States’ marquee steel company should remain under American ownership. From initial reports, this deal appears to be a bad deal for Pennsylvania and for Pennsylvania workers,” commented US Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

“A foreign company should not be able to swoop in, ignore the voices of union workers, and buy a major American steel manufacturer behind closed doors,” said US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “Nippon and U.S. Steel have insulted American steelworkers by refusing to give them a seat at the table and raised grave concerns about their commitment to the future of the American steel industry.”

White House comments

Karine Jean-Pierre, press secretary for the White House, said on Dec. 19 that President Joe Biden is aware of the proposed acquisition. She declined to speak to any specifics on the transaction, as it could come under regulatory review.

She noted, however, that the President believes in the, “Steelworkers’ commitment to protecting American manufacturing that supports family-sustaining union jobs — that is something that the President supports.”

Recall that the United Steelworkers (USW) union is rather unhappy about the deal and is urging regulators to carefully scrutinize the proposed acquisition.

On the other hand, Jean-Pierre commented that President Biden “is committed to competition because he knows competition means lower costs for consumers and higher wages for workers.”

Pennsylvania democrats address Nippon Steel directly

On Dec. 18, the day the proposed acquisition was made public, four US senators and members of Congress representing Pennsylvania sent a letter directly to Nippon’s president Eiji Hashimoto. Recall that U.S. Steel is headquartered in Pittsburgh and operates its Mon Valley Steelworks just outside the city.

In the letter, US Sens. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.) and John Fetterman, together with US Reps. Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.) and Summer Lee (D-Pa.), asked Hashimoto for further clarity on Nippon’s plans and to disclose potential impacts on Pennsylvania’s manufacturing base and workers.

After talking to community members and workers, Lee said in a post on X (formerly Twitter): “We feel the same – blindsided and concerned by the sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon. Labor must be centered in the process, yet workers weren’t even informed, nor do they feel confident their hard-earned agreements will be honored.”

Laura Miller

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