President Obama visits U.S. Steel's plant in West Mifflin on Wednesday, January 29.
Photo: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
NEW YORK Expectations among the nations metals and manufacturing sectors that President Obama, in his fifth State of the Union address, would announce and set in motion a game plan targeting their shared objectives in the international trade, energy, tax, infrastructure and environmental arenas were modest at best. And they were met.
"I am cautiously optimistic about some of the goals the President talked about to grow manufacturing in the United States and encouraged to hear him talk about the importance of improving our infrastructure, enhancing energy policies and promoting fair trade," Thomas J. Gibson, president and chief executive officer of the American Iron and Steel Institute, said in a statement. "As I have said before, however, the devil will be in the details on how the administration is going to achieve our shared manufacturing goals."
Gibson called on the President to couple his efforts to open up markets with actions to ensure "strong enforcement" of the countrys trade laws and to further fortify such measures by working with Congress to pass tougher trade enforcement legislation like the Enforce Act (amm.com, June 27). Gibson also expressed hope that the Presidents plan ensures that ongoing trade negotiations include remedies for currency manipulation and strong enforceable disciplines on state-owned enterprises.
Bob Weidner, president and chief executive officer of the Metals Service Center Institute (MSCI), also zeroed in on the issue of currency manipulation. "While MSCI supports free-trade bills that open more world markets to U.S. products, it doesnt believe the currency provision in the current Trade Promotion Authority draft is strong enough," he said in a statement. "A more effective currency provision is the best way to bring back manufacturing jobs and to address income inequality."
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), which compiled a list of four key items the President failed to address in his speech, took a more critical view.
"This is the third consecutive State of the Union in which there has been a strong rhetorical focus on manufacturing, and thats welcome," AAM president Scott Paul said in a statement. "But the progress, despite the rosy picture painted by the President, has been painfully slow. And in some cases, such as the trade deficit with China, weve seen backsliding.
"While the President indicated there were a number of things he planned to do on his own, without Congress, to boost the economy in 2014, he left some important things off that list," Scott noted, including designating China as a currency manipulator; tightening Buy America compliance among federal agencies to prevent tax dollars from leaking overseas; ensuring the U.S. isnt exporting energy products to nonmarket economies in a way that harms the emerging energy advantage of domestic firms; and launching an executive effort to cut the U.S. trade deficit with China in half.
"These actions could have a profoundly positive impact for American workers and manufacturing, and reverse some of the policy failures weve seen over the past few decades," Scott said.