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Congressional Steel Caucus urges Section 232 protections

Congressional Steel Caucus members, from left, Rep. Michael Doyle, D-Pa., former Chairman Rep. Tim Murphy R-Pa., Vice Chairman Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark., listen to Leo W. Gerard, center, International President of United Steelworkers, speak on Capitol Hill in Washington last year.

The Congressional Steel Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who support America's steel industry, is asking President Donald Trump to loop them in on whether he plans to take actions to protect domestic steel mills after the U.S. Commerce Department's much-anticipated Section 232 investigation into whether elevated levels of imports have been harming national security.

The federal agency finished the investigation in January, setting off a statutory clock that gives the president 90 days to act.

“American steelworkers are an essential contributor to the strength and viability of our national security and our national economy," U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Gary, said. "I encourage President Trump to act with the utmost urgency and send a resounding message that the foundational equipment and strength of the American military must be built with American-made steel.”

The Congressional Steel Caucus sent the administration a letter asking for a briefing and any potential time frame for action, which could include additional tariffs, quotas or other measures.

“When other countries break the trade agreements we’ve adopted, their actions undermine American businesses and the jobs those businesses support," Co-Chairman Rick Crawford said. "Given the President’s commitment to rural communities and putting American interests first, I’m hopeful that he will take action that allows our nation’s steel industry to compete fairly."

Trump has until April 11 to take any action to protect American steelmakers. The Congressional Steel Caucus warned that "the American steel industry is threatened by repeated surges in steel imports driven by global over-capacity and other foreign trade-distorting subsidies, policies and practices."

“American steel jobs are at risk due to global competitors who refuse to play by the rules,” Co-Chairman Mike Bost said. “That’s why it’s vitally important for President Trump to take action to ensure U.S. companies and workers have the ability to compete on an even playing field. I have no doubt in my mind that the American steelworker is second to none when competing on equal footing.”

They stressed that good-paying steelworker jobs are at risk at a time when global excess capacity totals nearly 700 million tons and foreign imports captured a near record 28 percent of the U.S. market share this year.

"The domestic steel industry has been battered by a flood of imports, many of which are unfairly traded or are produced by subsidized state-owned enterprises in non-market economies, such as China, in quantities well in excess of global demand," the Congressional Steel Caucus wrote in the letter. "These unfairly traded imports and the negative price effects of the excess global capacity of steel have led to the idling of a great deal of United States steel production and the direct and indirect loss of thousands of American jobs and economically harmed communities."

Other industries have actively been lobbying against any Section 232 action, arguing it would limit their ability to buy cheap steel. Fifteen trade associations representing consumers of steel said further protections, on top of the 190 tariffs already in place, could drive up prices for a number of finished products, including military aircraft and military vehicles.

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.