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Alarm sounded at steel caucus hearing

Keywords: Tags  steel, John Ferriola, Nucor, Congressional Steel Caucus, Michael Rippey, ArcelorMittal USA, Leo Gerard, USW Mario Longhi

WASHINGTON — A spring nor’easter wrapped the nation’s capital in a thin coat of snow Tuesday morning, but the temperature inside the Rayburn House Office Building was visibly elevated as an all-star cast of American steel executives and more than a dozen Congressional Steel Caucus members convened a hearing to address the “State of Steel: Spotlight on Trade, Energy and Currency Policy.”

Although energy and currency shared top billing with trade, there’s little question what topic dominated the two-hour hearing.

“I want to ring the fire alarm,” an emotional Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union, told industry leaders, trade association officials and politicos in a question-and-answer exchange following formal testimonies. “If something isn’t done in this round, you need to understand that we have shown the rest of the world the blueprint to eliminate our steel industry.”

His warning came in the wake of individual testimonies by Gerard; Michael Rippey, president and chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal USA LLC, Chicago; John Ferriola, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; and Mario Longhi, president and chief executive officer of U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh.

Gerard’s “fire alarm” dovetailed with opening remarks by Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.), chairman of the steel caucus, who called on the U.S. Commerce Department to take a stand against those who violate international trade law.

“In the last four months, the Commerce Department has on three occasions ignored major violations of U.S. trade law with South Korean pipe, Turkish pipe and Turkish rebar,” Murphy said. He also issued a warning of his own, announcing that the caucus will be sending letters on the three cases to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker urging a reversal of the rulings.

Korea “does not sell one pound of OCTG (oil country tubular goods) in their own country. They don’t sell one pound in other countries. It’s solely targeted at our markets,” Longhi said when asked what concerns he had with Commerce and its finding in the OCTG case.

U.S. Steel’s top executive also questioned the thoroughness of the fact-finding and adherence to methodology conducted in conjunction with the case. “The issues of difficulty creating a foundational reference are aggravated by the way in which the transactions occur,” Longhi said. “It is really important that all the facts be brought to the surface. For example, it surprised us when Commerce made the decision they made when the Koreans neglected in the minimum to supply the information requested by Commerce in due time.”

Asked if steel imported from Russia was a problem, Ferriola said that “unfairly traded imports from every country are a problem. But we do have a particular problem with Russia. ... We have a special agreement with Russia on trade called the suspension agreement that entitles them to some benefits that frankly other trading partners would love to have.

“I find it curious that there’s so much talk about finding ways to impose economic sanctions on Russia for their aggressive action in Ukraine, yet we have a simple way that we can do that very quickly,” Ferriola said. “We have the option to suspend the suspension agreement. ... And that is one of the first actions we should take.”

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