Trade remedies for steel and aluminum are long overdue

Robert E. Scott

Robert E. Scott Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research, Economic Policy Institute

The Commerce Department today released public summaries of the reports on its investigations into the impact on national security from imports of steel and aluminum products. The Department found that steel and aluminum imports “threaten to impair the national security.” The reports recommend alternative remedies that can be used to return domestic steel and aluminum industries to full health (with 80 percent operating capacity), in each case.

The United States should impose strong restrictions on imports of steel and aluminum, and should work with other nations to develop coordinated responses to excess capacity and unfair trade in these products.

Each report recommends three alternative sets of remedies to help restore domestic production and employment, ranging from global tariffs, to a mix of tariffs targeted on countries responsible for excess capacity and unfair trade (e.g. China, Brazil, India, Korea, Turkey, Vietnam, and others in steel) and quotas for other countries, and finally, global quotas on imports. These remedies are long overdue. President Trump promised quick action when these studies were ordered nearly one year ago. Delays have heightened the import crisis for thousands of U.S. steel and aluminum industry workers.

These reports are under review by the president, who must make final decisions about steel and aluminum trade remedies by April 11 and April 19, 2018, respectively. The president may take a range of actions, may modify the proposed actions, or take no action at all.

The crisis in steel and aluminum trade is driven by the development of massive amounts of excess production capacity, resulting in import dumping originating in China and a limited number of other countries that are singled out for higher tariffs in the reports’ most aggressive remedy proposal. In remarks to the press on release of these reports, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that the release of the reports was designed to encourage other countries to join the United States in coming up with stronger measures to force China to curb its overcapacity.

The United States should use the opportunity provided by the release of these reports to develop a common, multinational response to the problems of excess capacity in steel and aluminum. The United States should take the lead in setting strong, effective restrictions on steel and aluminum imports, especially from unfair trading countries, and it should work with other nations to enact similar restrictions on a cooperative basis.


Reposted from the EPI

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder