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  February 1st, 2018 | Written by

BREAKING NEWS: US Steel Companies Urge Protection from Trump

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  • Steel industry wants broad based protection, with only limited exceptions.
  • Commerce Department sent Trump its report on the Section 232 steel investigation.
  • The United Steelworkers union wants “comprehensive action on trade.”

A leading steel trade group and top executives of United States steel companies are urging President Donald Trump to impose protectionist trade measures to protect their industry, Reuters is reporting.

The American Iron and Steel Institute is calling on Trump to act immediately under Section 232 of the Trade Extension  Act of 1962 U.S. trade law, which allows for restrictions to protect national security.

”We urge you to implement a remedy that is comprehensive and broad based, covering all major sources of steel imports and the full range of steel products, with only limited exceptions for products not currently available in the United States,” according to a letter sent to Trump by AISA and signed by executives at Alton Steel, AK Steel Corp., Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., TimkenSteel Corp., Nucor Corp., and ArcelorMittal USA.

The steel luminaries may have been emboldened that Trump is pursuing a full-on protectionist policy by the president’s recently announcements of safeguard measures for washing machines and solar panels under Section 201 of the Trade Act. Those moves did not require a finding that any overseas exporter or government acted unfairly. Neither would action under Section 232; that provision requires a finding that national security is at risk from imports.

On January 22, the Commerce Department submitted a report to Trump on the findings of its Section 232 investigation. The contents of that report have not been made public, but it would come as no surprise if it recommended broad protectionist measures.

The steel industry letter noted that steel imports surged in 2017 despite the threat of trade actions. The increase may have come precisely because of those threats, as importers stocked up in advance of an anticipated clampdown.

The industry letter also puts companies on the same side as organized labor. In advance of State of the Union speech, United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard said that “workers are still waiting for comprehensive action on trade…”

But protectionist measures can also cost workers their jobs. Trump’s solar tariffs were supposed to protect a largely non-existent US solar panel manufacturing industry while costing the jobs of tens of thousands of solar panel installers. Trump’s actions on solar may have been as much about energy policy as trade policy, as it will likely impede solar installations in the US in favor of the president’s favorites: fossil fuels. Even in the State of the Union,  Trump continued to tout “beautiful clean coal,” putting the US, in that arena and many others, at odds with the rest of the world.