Steel Mills

Wilbur Ross says USS sale to Nippon isn’t a security threat

Written by Laura Miller

Wilbur Ross doesn’t believe the proposed sale of U.S. Steel to Japan’s Nippon Steel poses any threat to the economic or national security of the US.

Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the business tycoon and former US secretary of commerce, has instead said, “There is no real cause for concern other than xenophobia…” in a New Year’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

He said objections or concerns from politicians are due to 2024 being an election year. Recall that a number of politicians on both sides of the aisle have spoken out with their concerns on the proposed takeover of the iconic Pittsburgh-based steelmaker by a foreign-owned entity.

In the op-ed, Ross said national security could be a real threat if American mills were closing because of unfairly subsidized Japanese exports to the US. But this isn’t the case, and “There’s nothing in the deal from which the US needs defending. Attacks by Washington pols only create unnecessary geopolitical tensions, and those, not the acquisition itself, could endanger American national security,” Ross wrote.

Ross added that Japan is a major ally of the US, ranking first in terms of foreign direct investment in the US.

To close, Ross pointed out that no concerns were expressed in 2005 when he sold the International Steel Group (ISG) to India’s Lakshmi Mittal, nor when Russia’s Severstal bought the bankrupt Rouge Steel in 2004.

Another view

In another Jan. 1 op-ed, this one in The Washington Times, another former government official offered an alternative view on the national security issue of the U.S. Steel sale.

Manisha Singh, an attorney who served as assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs for the Trump administration, wrote that lessons learned from the pandemic should be remembered.

“The inability to procure emergency goods here was traced back to America’s excessive reliance on China,” Singh said, noting that US officials pleaded with allies during the pandemic for medical supplies to save American lives. However, “Even friendly partner nations were unable to meet American requests due to their own exigent circumstances,” she pointed out.

Additionally, with Trump’s invocation of Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, “It was determined that [global steelmaking] overcapacity hindered the ability of domestic producers to meet the needs of domestic defense,” she wrote.

“The US military falls short of the strategic numbers of equipment previously identified to maintain “peace through strength,” much less prevail if attacked. To build back full military capacity in order to meet existential defense needs, relying on anyone else, even an ally, compromises the national security of the American people,” Singh said.

Singh’s op-ed allows one to imagine how America’s national security could be at threat in the future should Nippon Steel purchase U.S. Steel now: Imagine if “regional conflicts spark a global catastrophe in which America requires large amounts of steel to build weapons and infrastructure for the defense of its citizens. Simultaneously, Japan, currently with far less military equipment than the United States, needs the same,” she wrote.

Laura Miller

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