President Trump Signs Order to Launch Aluminum Imports Investigation

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, AAM

Another “Section 232” investigation for the Trump administration. Will it lead to action?

First steel, now aluminum.

President Donald Trump officially signed an executive order on Thursday afternoon to initiate a Section 232(b) investigation into aluminum imports. Overseen by the Commerce Department, the investigation will determine whether foreign imports of aluminum threaten national security — and if so, Trump will have the power to act to restrict imports, including through tariffs. 

The Commerce Department has 270 days to conduct the investigation. Once it gives its recommendation to Trump, he will have 90 days to respond.

Learn More: What’s a Section 232 Investigation?

There’s little doubt that American aluminum makers are threatened because of China’s aluminum overcapacity. Chinese state-owned enterprises produce far more aluminum than China can use for its own needs. Instead of curbing production, China dumps its excess aluminum (which, we note, is heavily subsidized) into the U.S. market priced far below market cost.

It’s part of a strategy to capture market share and put American aluminum makers out of business. Over the past 15 years, China’s aluminum production quintupled, from 11 percent of the world’s production in 2002 to 53 percent in 2016; imports took 55 percent of the market in 2016.

Meanwhile, eight American smelters have closed or curbed production since 2015. Only two are fully operational today. There is only one remaining American smelter capable of producing the high-purity aluminum needed by the aerospace industry for F-35, F-18 and C-17 aircraft, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters during a Wednesday briefing.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said that the investigation could be a step toward recovery for the blue-collar aluminum industry workers impacted by China’s unfair trade practices.

“If we’re to see real change, this investigation must be followed by appropriate trade enforcement,” he said. “For years, China has promised to cut its massive industrial overcapacity, all while increasing production… If China is unwilling to keep its promises, there should be clear and enforceable penalties to force actions.”

Trump's executive order earned bipartisan support, including from Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (D), who noted in a statement that 15,000 American aluminum workers have lost their jobs in the last decade. But Brown also cautioned that the investigation must lead to action. 

"It's good that the Administration is using this tool, but what matters to Ohio workers and the aluminum supply chain is whether it leads to real relief and action against China's market-distorting policies," Brown said.

Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, said in a statement that Trump’s executive action “recognizes the value of U.S. aluminum industry.” United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, whose union represents thousands of aluminum industry workers, said any action stemming from the investigation should focus “on those countries that are actually breaking the rules.”

He named names. “China’s overcapacity is swamping world markets, driving down prices and making some operations unprofitable,” Gerard said, adding that the Trump administration should continue work on a World Trade Organization case against Chinese subsidies for aluminum.

While Section 232 investigations are rare, this is now the second time that Trump has opted to initiate one; he announced a Section 232 investigation into steel imports on April 20.

But as our Scott Paul noted last week, China’s industrial overcapacity and persistent unfair practices — coupled with the need to maintain a strong industrial supply chain for our national security needs — mean such action is appropriate.

“America’s steelmakers are vital to our national security, providing essentials ranging from the armor plate on our tanks and specialty metals in our high-tech aircraft, to the hulls of our battleships and everything in between,” Paul said. “China’s massively subsidized and grossly over-scaled steel industry is an existential threat to our own domestic makers.”

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Reposted from AAM.

Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Alliance for American Manufacturing

Union Matters

Failing Bridges Hold Public Hostage

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) gave the public just a few hours’ notice before closing a major bridge in March, citing significant safety concerns.

The West Seattle Bridge functioned as an essential component of  the city’s local and regional transportation network, carrying 125,000 travelers a day while serving Seattle’s critical maritime and freight industries. Closing it was a huge blow to the city and its citizens. 

Yet neither Seattle’s struggle with bridge maintenance nor the inconvenience now facing the city’s motorists is unusual. Decades of neglect left bridges across the country crumbling or near collapse, requiring a massive investment to keep traffic flowing safely.

When they opened it in 1984, officials predicted the West Seattle Bridge would last 75 years.

But in 2013, cracks started appearing in the center span’s box girders, the main horizontal support beams below the roadway. These cracks spread 2 feet in a little more than two weeks, prompting the bridge’s closure.

And it’s still at risk of falling.  

The city set up an emergency alert system so those in the “fall zone” could be quickly evacuated if the bridge deteriorates to the point of collapse.

More than one-third of U.S. bridges similarly need repair work or replacement, a reminder of America’s urgent need to invest in long-ignored infrastructure.

Fixing or replacing America’s bridges wouldn’t just keep Americans moving. It would also provide millions of family-supporting jobs for steel and cement workers, while also boosting the building trades and other industries.

With bridges across the country close to failure and millions unemployed, America needs a major infrastructure campaign now more than ever.

 

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work