New U.S. coalition of manufacturers opposes unfair trade practices

A group of eight manufacturing associations representing companies that employ approximately 800,000 U.S. workers have formed a new group to fight unfair trade practices from China, it was announced Wednesday.

Manufacturers for Trade Enforcement, as the group is called, claims China does not meet requirements to be automatically designated a market economy because of government subsidies. China is seeking the designation this year, its 15th anniversary of joining the World Trade Organization.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, which represents steelmakers including West Chester Twp.-based AK Steel, is part of the coalition out of concern that the oversupplied global steel market stems from excess production in China, according to the steel business group.

“What we need to see so we can have an industry that competes fairly … is for some managed countries to let the markets determine who the winners and losers are,” said Thomas Gibson, president and chief executive officer of the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Finished steel imports to the U.S. dropped 7 percent from 2014’s record levels to approximately 31.4 million net tons in 2015. However, raw domestic steel production also dropped 10.6 percent year-over-year to 86.9 million tons made, according to the steel institute. As a result, even though imports fell some in 2015, imports still captured a record 29 percent share of the U.S. steel market last year, according to the institute.

“We continue to support work to ensure a level playing field for manufacturing, and that U.S. trade laws are enforced,” according to a company statement provided by AK Steel spokeswoman Lisa Jester.

Several actions have been taken to reduce unfair trade practices that are hurting U.S. steel companies. Multiple steelmakers including AK Steel and U.S. Steel joined forces last year to file international trade lawsuits accusing some foreign countries of illegally dumping products in the U.S. for less than the cost to make the goods. Efforts have also been made to encourage the American government to use international diplomacy to approach the subject, Gibson said. Legislatively, amended trade laws have made it easier to prove harm in steel dumping cases and to beef up enforcement of trade laws.

Meanwhile, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, along with U.S. Department of Commerce and other federal government agencies are holding in April a public hearing on the global steel industry situation and its impact on the U.S. steel market.

“We’ve seen the surge of imports because of the level of overcapacity that exists in the world is at an all-time high,” Gibson said. “That is pressurizing the entire steel market worldwide.”