For far too long, American workers and businesses have received the short end of the stick when it comes to international trade. In fact, the United States has run an annual trade deficit since 1975, and our 2017 deficit with China rose to a record $375 billion. This prolonged period of importing more goods than we export, exacerbated in part by unfair trade practices such as Chinese steel dumping, has decimated industries and led to economic hardship for entire regions.
China is easily the largest steel producer in the world, accounting for nearly half of global production. The Chinese must export between 10 and 15 percent of their steel, and a flood of excess global capacity has driven steel prices downward as supply outstrips demand.
The central element in the case against Chinese steel dumping lies in the fact that the Chinese government has made a strategic decision to dominate the global steel market by heavily subsidizing production. This subsidization is an enormous threat to our nation’s security, as the United States has steadily become more reliant on foreign sources of steel to supply our military and infrastructure needs.
The international community has finally taken notice of the risks associated with a single country having a quasi-monopoly over the global steel market. Just last year, the European Union imposed stiff tariffs on Chinese steel in an attempt to combat dumping and excessively low prices. The Obama administration did the same in 2016.
These efforts, however, have done little to slow the flood of Chinese steel into the marketplace. China produces the same amount of steel in a single year as the entire world generated in the year 2000.
Negative impacts associated with these unfair trade practices have manifested across whole swathes of the United States. Once-thriving factories have been forced out of business, and thousands of workers have lost their jobs. Decades of neglect from politicians in Washington sent these forgotten Americans to the polls in droves in the 2016 election.
It should come as no surprise, then, that many workers in the Rust Belt breathed a collective sigh of relief earlier this month when President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE announced his proposal to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. These tariffs will undoubtedly bring prosperity to regions of the country that have been left behind by previous administrations.
Moreover, the president’s proposal reinforces the importance of steel and aluminum production in our nation’s infrastructure and national security efforts. Our reliance on foreign nations for critically important resources such as steel and aluminum is deeply troubling.
Some leaders, however, even within my own party, have slammed the president’s actions, calling them “protectionist” and citing concerns over starting a trade war. Nevertheless, my colleagues offer no solutions.
As a matter of policy, I am a strong advocate of free trade, but we need to ensure our trade relationships are fair for American workers and friendly nations with which we trade. We should not punish our allies by lumping them in the same category as the bad actors, who are the root of our most serious trade problems. These tariffs should be targeted against the true culprits of trade manipulation—namely China.
President Trump announced his tariff plan in a manner true to his history as a blunt, no-nonsense businessman and politician—he came out swinging and threw his best punch by proposing tariffs on all steel and aluminum imports. Given that the president now has the world’s attention, he has since stated that the tariff policy is subject to certain carve-outs, and that nations may request exemptions. In doing so, the president has sent the message that the U.S. is open for business and trade, however our partners must play by the rules.
While many are skeptical of the tariffs and their impacts on downstream users of steel and aluminum, I am confident in the president’s ability to negotiate with our partners to foster true fair trade for everyone and ensure that American industries can compete on a level playing field across the globe.
Marino represents Pennsylvania’s 10th District.