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
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.