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Imports, regulation stifling steel: execs

Keywords: Tags  steel, caucus, imports, natural gas, US Steel, Cliffs, ArcelorMittal, Catherine Ngai

WASHINGTON — The U.S. steel sector looks stronger ahead, particularly as affordable access to natural gas and a recovering automotive and energy sector allow manufacturers to become more competitive globally, but that growth could be in jeopardy if Congress doesn’t act to discourage low-priced imports and over regulation, industry executives said.

"We are threatened every day by the unfair trade practices of our foreign competitors. We need the U.S. government to ferret out such practices that continue to distort steel markets and take strong action to challenge them through aggressive enforcement of U.S. trade remedies," ArcelorMittal USA LLC president and chief executive officer Michael G. Rippey testified March 21 before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

"The American steel industry today is simply not your grandfather’s, or even your father’s, steel industry. (But) with your help, it can be your son’s and daughter’s steel industry," he added.

Low-priced imports, particularly in the pipe and tube space, are hurting profit margins and can’t continue if the domestic steel industry is to thrive, steel executives underscored during the subcommittee meeting, which included members of the Congressional Steel Caucus.

"Some foreign producers have been even more aggressive. Since 2010, casing and tubing imports from South Korea are up more than 58 percent, imports from Taiwan are up more than 88 percent and imports from Saudi Arabia are up more than 420 percent. The same story is true for many other pipe products," John P. Surma, chairman and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel Corp., said in prepared remarks.

The result of low-priced imports are damaged domestic markets and fewer U.S. jobs, he reiterated.

"These imports are weighing heavily on the U.S. market. ... Given the long history of unfair trade in the steel sector, we are very concerned that foreign market distortions—including dumping and subsidies—are one of the principal underlying causes of this injurious import surge."

Outside of imports, extensive permitting delays and an uncertain regulatory environment are also hurting steelmakers, according to Joseph A. Carrabba, president and chief executive officer of Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.

"Our permitting process is far too protracted and we increasingly find that federal agencies are usurping the role that states should play in working with industry to innovate science-based solutions to efficiently reduce environmental impacts," he said. "In order for our industry to thrive, we need to responsibly develop our American resources while ensuring that regulatory requirements are as predictable and workable as they are protective and stringent."

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