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Steel eyeing State of the Union for signs

Keywords: Tags  American Iron and Steel Institute, Thomas Gibson, State of the Union address, corporate tax, greenhouse gas, trade laws, Samuel Frizell

NEW YORK — Leaders in the steel industry are hoping to hear indications in President Obama’s State of the Union address Feb. 12 that the executive branch will take measurable steps to improve manufacturing conditions during Obama’s second term, Thomas Gibson, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), told AMM.

"I’m hoping the President speaks to manufacturing, and I’m hoping that it’s not just about jobs," Gibson said. "I hope he talks about things that we’re going to do to create those jobs."

A laundry list of legislation that would make steel manufacturing in the United States more profitable and therefore more competitive would include stricter trade laws, lower corporate taxes, a long-term transportation bill to improve roads and river transport, and laws that make energy cheaper and more accessible, Gibson said.

Gibson said he would be listening warily for indications the president is using his post-election political capital to introduce tighter environmental regulations and higher corporate taxes, both of which Gibson contends would make it harder for U.S. steel companies to do business.

"My fear lately is that they’re looking at the corporate tax as a place where they can raise additional revenue," said Gibson. "(Corporate tax) has to make manufacturing more competitive, not less competitive. We’re hoping to hear more positive signs there than just bashing of the industry."

Greenhouse gas regulation and other environmental laws, especially without getting developing economies around the world involved, could dampen developments in natural gas that have benefited the industry, Gibson said. "We’re going to be looking very carefully at imposing unilateral burdens without some framework that involves the developing economies. (Regulations like that) just put us at a disadvantage," Gibson said.

Though the president is unlikely to mention all these specific measures in his address, Gibson said he hopes the steel industry will still be able to glean a sense of the White House’s priorities this year by listening in.

"Is he going to draw lines (during the address)?" said Gibson. "If it’s (a certain) level of generality, maybe it doesn’t matter much. ... More, I’m going to be looking at the individual elements on what he’s going to be doing."

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