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NLMK leaves SMA due to ‘Buy America’ rift

Keywords: Tags  NLMK USA, NLMK, James Banker, Steel Manufacturers Association, SMA, Philip Bell, Buy America requirements, steel flat-rolled steel

CHICAGO — Flat-rolled steelmaker NLMK USA has left the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) due to disagreements over the association’s support for "Buy America" requirements, one company executive said.

NLMK USA felt the Washington-based trade group was no longer representing the company’s best interests, James Banker, executive vice president of commercial, told AMM.

"Additionally, the ‘Buy America’ issue is essentially one of fairness, and we want our raw material, slabs, treated the same as other imported raw materials such as hot-briquetted iron (HBI), direct-reduced iron (DRI), iron ore, coke (and) ferroalloys," he said via e-mail May 20.

SMA president Philip K. Bell confirmed that SMA and NLMK USA, a subsidiary of Lipetsk, Russia-based Novolipetsk Steel had a falling out over "Buy America" policies, specifically over requirements that steel be melted and poured in the United States to qualify for use in domestic infrastructure projects.

That view put NLMK at odds with other SMA members, Bell said. "We operate on consensus-based majority, and the SMA position on the melted-and-poured provisions of ‘Buy America’ is consistent with the overwhelming majority of our members," he said.

But SMA respects NLMK’s decision and SMA would welcome the company back "at any time if they ultimately change their mind," Bell added.

The SMA hasn’t received a formal resignation letter from NLMK USA, Bell said, but noted that in December NLMK USA president Robert Miller voiced his concerns about SMA’s stance on "Buy America" and that the parties had also exchanged e-mails on the matter.

Tensions arose in part over attempts by companies, including NLMK, to "whittle away" at melted-and-poured language in "Buy America" provisions, Bell said, adding that had no objection to NLMK’s business model of converting imported slabs but questioned whether taxpayer money should be used to support steel made that way in public works. "On American infrastructure, it only makes sense that that’s made out of steel that is melted and poured in the U.S. That’s a no-brainer."

Bell also brushed aside concerns that domestic slabs might not be available for slab converters looking to participate in U.S. infrastructure projects. "There are plenty of domestic slabs available," he said.

NLMK USA produces hot-rolled, cold-rolled and galvanized flat-rolled steel, as well as coiled plate from its operations in Indiana and Pennsylvania, according to the company’s website.

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