U.S. Steel head pleads for leveling trade practices

From Illinois Business Journal news services

WASHINGTON – One day after making public a plan to temporarily idle Granite City Steel Works, the head of United States Steel Corp. joined other executives to press Congress to help the industry by enforcing trade laws.

President and CEO Mario Longhi said Congress can strengthen America’s economic and national security by halting unfair trade practices.

The remarks were critically timed, given the plan to send layoff notices within the next 60 days to more than 2,000 workers in Granite City because of plans to idle the flat-roll production at the mill, which is one of Metro East’s largest employers.

The prepared text of Longhi’s follows:

“Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Steel Caucus. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today and for your support over the years.

“I am Mario Longhi, and I am proud to serve as the President and Chief Executive Officer of United States Steel Corporation, the largest integrated, American-headquartered manufacturer of steel.

“America’s national security is a product of our unrivaled military, our extraordinary economic prowess, and the strength and unique resilience of the American people.

“Our self-reliance is the envy of the world.

“We feed our people, we educate our children, and we do not outsource our national defense or the building of our vital infrastructure.

“Mr. Chairman, it is worth remembering that in World War II, when called upon, U. S. Steel produced, among other things, 90 percent of the steel used to make over 21 million helmets. And we invented the landing mat, to project our airpower – wherever and whenever required.

“This body has repeatedly recognized that this nation’s safety, security and prosperity depend upon indigenous capacity to respond to our essential national needs, in peacetime and in times of crisis.

“We do not build a steel plant in an emergency…we rely on it.

“As you have heard today, not since the late 1990s have we witnessed the torrent of steel imports. Total and finished steel products imported into our market by heavily subsidized, command-economies increased year-to-year between 22 to 90 percent. The last time we were at these levels, nearly half of American steel companies disappeared.

“Today, across the country, once again, mills are idled. Plants continue to be shut down. American workers are laid off.

“American steel companies are being irreparably harmed by illegal trade practices.

“When Congress incorporated the injury standard, it did not intend for companies or workers to suffer severe, persistent harm before they can seek relief. A 1979 colloquy between the late Senators Heinz and Ribicoff made abundantly clear that it would be perverse to insist that an American company experience grievous harm before becoming entitled to the full protection of its nation’s laws.

“Over 36 years later, that right is now a right with no meaningful remedy.

“While the statute allows for evaluation of relevant factors for the establishment of material injury, U.S. decision makers have focused too heavily on operating margins alone as a proxy for injury.

“There are clearly other indicators of injury, including suppressive effects on cash flow, production, net income, employment, R&D, and investment in new technologies and growth. All of these must be taken into account.

“The injury language we propose ensures that the trade enforcement process aligns with the original Congressional intent.

“The application of the correct injury standard is paramount, and the time to act is now.

“We have a rare window of opportunity to do what’s right for American manufacturers and our workers. This opportunity will not present itself again for at least another decade. If we do not seize it – if Congress yields its leadership to another branch of government to legislate by bureaucratic fiat – you will condemn American manufacturers to irrelevance – or worse.

“Trade Promotion Authority must incorporate this injury standard. If it does not, we should reject it.

“Mr. Chairman, it is not enough to open new markets for American goods and services. I submit to you, the greater economic and national security interests demand that the enforcement of our trade laws reflects Congress’s original intent.

“United States Steel Corporation has never been just another commercial enterprise.

“We are America’s steel company. For over a century, serving our commercial customers, but always standing ready to react when our nation calls.

“In a moment of exceptional need for the steel required to maintain its strength, America makes a local call.”

 

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