Keith Chu (202) 224-3789
Wyden Statement at USTR and Commerce Department Steel Overcapacity Hearing
As Prepared for Delivery
Thank you for having me here to speak this morning on the enormous challenges facing America’s steel industry. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Finance, which has jurisdiction over international trade, it’s a pleasure for me to be here. In my time today, I’d like to zero in on the challenge of steel overcapacity. And in particular, I’d like to shine the spotlight on China and address what our trade enforcers must do to stand up to its unfair trade practices.
Steel production has long been a pillar of the American economy. It’s in our infrastructure, it’s in our cars and planes, and it’s vital to our national security. American steel producers are second to none when it comes to competing in a global market, but today, the glut of steel production around the world is an urgent threat. Global mill capacity has gone through the roof – more than doubling since 2000, according to the OECD. When you pair that with declining demand, one third of all the steel that mills can produce today has no buyer.
The level of stress that puts on our steel industry has never been seen before. Since January 2015, more than 13,500 steel jobs have been lost. Major facilities across the country are being idled or shuttered. The situation in Oregon is no different. You will be hearing from Evraz in Portland as well as a steelworker at the Cascade plant in McMinnville. As their stories will illustrate, the crisis is real and growing. Trade cheats producing too much steel overseas are resorting to rule breaking to clear their stocks, and it puts the livelihoods of entire communities across the U.S. in danger. It’s up to Congress and the administration to respond. And it’s my judgment that our policy response has to begin with a hard look at China.
Too often, China’s economy is not run by the commercial market -- it’s run by government committee. And China has proven itself more than willing to skew markets to rip off American jobs. So first and foremost, the U.S. needs our friends in Europe and elsewhere to recognize that now is not the time to give China “market economy” status. From state-owned enterprises profiting from unfair subsidies, to industrial policies that distort markets, China keeps a finger planted on the scale to favor its domestic producers.
It’s happening with aluminum, and Oregonians are closely familiar with China’s unfair tactics when it came to solar panels. When China took steps to flood the market and undercut U.S. solar firms, the administration used the tools at its disposal to defend American jobs. The scheme ended before China could wipe out America’s entire solar industry, and today SolarWorld is up and running in my home state. There’s no question that steel is a different industry with different challenges, but our focus on defending American workers has to be the same.
In my view, you cannot have any discussion of effective trade policies without focusing on vigorous enforcement of our trade laws. Enforcement is at the heart of defending against China’s unfair tactics. Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans on the Finance Committee came together to lead Congress in passing some of the strongest trade enforcement laws in decades. Two of them are particularly significant to steel. The first is the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, which is all about rooting out the bad actors and creating more tools to stop unfairly traded products like steel from making it into our market.
The next is the Leveling the Playing Field Act, which will help make sure that American firms and workers, when they’ve been targeted by trade cheats, are able to get the relief they need and deserve. It is essential that the administration implement and enforce these laws effectively, and my colleagues and I on the Finance Committee are eager to work with ITC and the Commerce Department to see it through. Now, with major new trade cases filed by American steelworkers and companies, America’s trade enforcers are facing their first test under these new rules. While I also welcome redoubled efforts to address the underlying overcapacity problem through international dialogue, unfortunately too often global talks have gone nowhere. Talk is no substitute for action. Workers cannot afford to wait for the relief they deserve.
Again, thank you for having me here today. With so many jobs and such a vital industry on the line in the face of global steel overcapacity, Congress and the administration must be in lockstep on these issues. So I look forward to working with USTR, the Commerce Department and ITC in the months and years ahead.
Next Article Previous Article