Steel never settles — neither should Trump on trade

Steel never settles — neither should Trump on trade
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America was built on steel.

Born in the 1850s, the steel industry connected our country through rail and illuminated its cities with soaring skyscrapers. The resource that powers U.S. manufacturing and construction, steel builds our bridges, assembles our cars, and makes our phones. Amid all of the technological innovations throughout the past century and a half, steel hasn’t just remained relevant — it’s remained a requirement for turning new dreams into new realities. Steel has effectively endured the test of time, forging its place into each and every generation it has met. Our industry is indeed American history — but with next-generation leadership, it will also be America’s future.

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Far more than a metal, steel is the fabric of our economy and the backbone of our middle-class; it’s the self-sustaining resource that allows us to protect our citizens, shelter our neighbors, support our workers, and preserve the American Dream. In today’s increasingly dangerous environment, consider the consequences of outsourcing the very material defending our freedoms and helping us win world wars. How many lives would be put at risk by relying on other nations for our own national security? In today’s globalized marketplace, consider the consequences of allowing our domestic steel industry to crumble. How many more economic dominoes would fall if it does?

As steel goes, so goes the nation.

The steel industry today is being injured by importers who are benefitting more from America’s economic growth than domestic producers. On Wall Street, the stock market is soaring to all-time highs; yet, on Main Street, confidence in the steel market is sinking to all-time lows. Increased capacity in other steel-making countries is compounded by the lack of support from our own government. As a result, steel jobs have been forfeited, steel mills have folded, and entire cities — once great steel-producing towns — have been forgotten.

One of the greatest barriers to the future of American steel comes not from any material but from the malice of bad actors abroad. Therefore, the solution comes not from the grit of our steelworkers but from the guts of our lawmakers.

Throughout the course of the 2016 election, President Donald J. Trump had the guts to campaign on a commitment to take on those bad actors. Lifted by that promise to focus on American steelworkers, our industry had a renewed sense of hope. From Inauguration Day to Labor Day — and most recently, during his visit to Asia — President Trump heightened those hopes by promising swift and strong action against unfair trade practices. However, trade deadlines have come and gone and decisions to take action have been delayed — even after the president himself was quoted in August saying “I want tariffs.”

Make America Great Again isn’t just a mantra; it’s a verb. It’s a call to action. For the betterment of our industry and our country, that call to action means we must first stop the bleeding so that we can start the process of saving our steel industry from being stolen. It’s time to take care of home first.

With solutions such as Section 232, heightened enforcement and monitoring mechanisms, quotas against cheaters, and increased inspections of imports at entry points, our industry can be transformed from one burdened by an inherent disadvantage of unfair trade into one unleashed to not only compete, but win.

The current administration — and far more importantly, the steelworkers who power our country — are in need of that win right now. While many issues in Washington have varying views, trade action against countries cheating Americans out of jobs is a bipartisan solution that would not require a bicameral process.

I would proudly put the product of workers across America up against any country around the world — but they’re just not being given a fair shot. We can no longer continue to allow foreign countries to be the beneficiaries of our own inaction. When the rigged economic battlefield upon which we are trying to compete becomes a fair playing field, there is simply no better country in the world for steel production than the United States.

Steel never settles. Despite being forced to idle steel plants, the industry does not sit idle. Instead, we bet on ourselves — innovating and reinvesting in our businesses as foreign steel is dumped into our country. It's about time we see a return on our investment.

The time to take action is now.

Todd Leebow is president and CEO of Majestic Steel USA, an Ohio-based nationwide steel service center and master distributor of steel.