NEW YORK The U.S. steel industry should take a more proactive approach to unfair trade by blocking injurious imports before they hit U.S. shores, Nucor Corp. president and chief executive officer John Ferriola said in an interview.
"Our government needs to be proactive instead of reactive on trade laws. We need the government to recognize the damage and the potential damage that can be done to our industry if they dont take action," Ferriola told AMM.
Under todays trade rules and timelines, by the time anti-dumping or countervailing duties are imposed on dumped and subsidized products the U.S. industry may have already experienced irreparable harm, Ferriola said.
"We need to be in a situation in Washington where as we see the damage coming, the government takes action. They (should) not wait until injury occurs, which is the way it works today," he said.
Creating new avenues at the International Trade Commission (ITC) to stop unfair trade practices before they hurt U.S. businesses should be an industry priority, Ferriola said. "I liken this to the difference between having a stoplight at an intersection and a walk/dont walk sign, so that we dont have people creamed by trucks, as opposed to making sure we have the best damn ambulance so after that person gets creamed by the truck were there to clean up the mess."
For example, the U.S. Commerce Department currently collects import license data on steel approved to be brought into the United Statesdata that indicates several weeks ahead of time how much foreign product will arrive in the United States, Ferriola said. Domestic steel producers might be able to prevent injury by using that licensing data to serve as an indicator and stop a flood of material before it hits U.S. shores rather than waiting until after it arrives to take action.
"They have this wonderful proactive device in place called import licensing. ... So they can tell us when the tsunami is about to hit. That means they know it, but it doesnt mean they do anything about it," Ferriola said. "So you go to them and you say Wait a second, look at the license information coming out of Korea, look at the pattern, you know whats happening. Yes, John, we know whats happening. You know whats going to happen when it hits. Yes, John, we know whats going to happen when it hits. Well do something. Nope. Our laws are such that we cant do something until injury has occurred."
Steel industry leaders have been increasingly involved in congressional hearings and ITC reviews, Ferriola said, with more participation at industry meetings in Washington than ever before. Five executives, including Ferriola, attended an ITC sunset review in April of concrete reinforcing steel bar from China and several East European countries, and six chief executive officers recently testified before the Steel Caucus, he said.
While change has been slow, Ferriola said it appears that Washington is beginning to understand the problem. "The industry has become more frustrated (and) our government leaders are becoming more frustrated. Theyre beginning to understand the games that are being played and the damage thats being done to our industry," he said.
However, any real change will depend on strong leadership from the steelmakers themselves, including Nucor, Ferriola said. "When I talk about industry leadership, it means not sitting on the sidelines and saying Gee, I hope the government figures out what to do. It means making our voice heard in Washington."