NEW YORK U.S. steel
interests are angling for stiffer trade regulations in 2013 in
the face of possible financial crises, hoping that tougher
enforcement will stimulate the industry as battles over fiscal
policies continue in Washington.
"Were still emerging from
the great recession," one steel industry source said. "The
industrys only operating at 70 percent (of capacity).
Theres a major concern of how our leaders resolve (fiscal
Industry leaders said companies
are eager to see crackdowns on countries that trade unfairly.
U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, and Nucor Corp., Charlotte, N.C.,
spent much of their 2012 lobbying budgets$1.23 million
and $1.18 million, respectivelyon trade issues, according
to congressional lobbying reports.
"Free trade only works if you
have rules, and the rules must be enforced," the steel industry
source said. "Any of our trading partners that play loose with
the rules need to be held accountable."
Industry leaders are looking
into ways to prevent unfair trade, including naming China a
currency manipulator and passing laws like the Enforcing Orders
and Reducing Circumvention and Evasion (Enforce) Act. The
billwhich was advanced by the Senate Finance Committee in
July but will have to be reintroduced in the new
Congressaims to strengthen U.S. Customs and Border
Protections enforcement of anti-dumping and
countervailing duty orders, as well as bolster procedures for
investigating allegations of duty evasion.
The American Iron and Steel
Institute, Nucor, U.S. Steel and other large steel companies
and interests lobbied in favor of the Enforce Act last year,
but although the bill had broad bipartisan support it was
difficult to push through because of deadlock on Capitol Hill,
"We were trying to get (the
Enforce Act) attached to a number of different bills before the
end of the Congress last year," AISI president Thomas Gibson
told AMM. "Thats why it failedwe ran out
of time. (Congress was) preoccupied with bigger issues and we
couldnt find a bill to attach it to."
Gibson said that of the 149
trade complaints filed with U.S. Customs and Border Protection
in 2012, action was taken on 15 of them and no violations were
found in 11leaving 123 of the complaints still working
their way through the agency.
"Its very difficult for me
to understand why (the Enforce Act) hasnt passed.
Its just a measure of some of the other interests that
are very powerful in this town," Steel Manufacturers
Association president Thomas Danjczek told AMM.
The threat of financial
implosion has dominated Washingtons agenda, hurting
industries trade interests, sources said.
The federal debt ceiling was
raised just hours before a government default in August 2011,
and the House voted Jan. 23 to further extend the debt limit
until May, setting the stage for yet another battle in just a
"Ones ambition (on Capitol
Hill) is thwarted by the elephant in the room," Danjczek said.
"What we try to do is work with those policies that are going
to do things that create jobs and stimulate the economy, and
work with things that are going to mitigate storm clouds."
Despite unease over fiscal
issues, discussions over currency manipulation and trade law
enforcement will undoubtedly arise over the next year.
"We are very strong advocates
for enforcing the rules of free trade," the steel industry
source said. "I think American workers know theres
something wrong going on here. ... American workers might not
be able to explain it to you, but they know that theyre
getting the shaft."