Download production-quality video of Senator Brown’s remarks HERE.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) successfully blocked an amendment on the Senate floor that would have ended President Trump’s steel tariffs against China. Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) attempted to call up the amendment by unanimous consent and Brown objected, effectively stopping the amendment from moving forward. In addition to ending the current tariffs on China and other countries, Corker’s amendment would have gutted the Administration’s authority to use what’s known as “Section 232” to enforce trade laws moving forward.
Brown said he shares concerns about allies like Canada being included in the tariffs and he spoke with the President’s top trade adviser, United States Trade Representative Bob Lighthizer about finding a solution last night. Instead of giving China a free pass, Brown encouraged Senators to work with him and the Administration to strike a deal with allies to crack down on China’s cheating all together.
“China’s cheating has cost too many Ohio steel jobs already and I will not allow us to gut enforcement tools just as we are finally fighting back,” said Brown. “I understand concerns about our allies like Canada being included, and I am working with the Administration to negotiate a solution without letting China off the hook.”
Earlier this year, Brown applauded President Trump for signing new steel tariffs to crack down on foreign trade cheats who have flooded the U.S. market with cheap steel and cost Ohio jobs. Brown has been calling on President Trump to take action to protect steel jobs since before Trump took office.
Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help in retooling U.S. trade policy, including taking strong action on steel. Brown wrote to Trump in November 2016 offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note. Brown has called on Administrations of both parties to help reduce China’s steel overcapacity, which leaves U.S. steelworkers and companies at a competitive disadvantage.
Text of Senator Brown’s Remarks as Prepared for Delivery follows below:
Mr. President, I reserve the right to object.
My colleague raises concerns about the effect of retaliatory tariffs on our farmers. I couldn’t agree more.
But we should not pit our farmers against our steelworkers. It benefits all Americans if we stop China’s cheating and force them to play by the rules. I would say to my colleague today that probably the worst thing you could do for America’s farmers is to jeopardize passage of the Farm Bill today and that is exactly what your amendment would do.
This amendment would gut one of our trade enforcement tools.– a tool Congress passed to ensure we can protect the industries necessary to defend our country.
I know my colleague from Tennessee opposes the president’s trade agenda, but that is not justification for completely undoing a decades-old statute that is one of the few tools we have to defend our national security interests against distortions in the global market.
The steel and aluminum tariffs the President has put in place are long overdue actions to defend against further shrinking of two sectors critical to national defense.
I know my colleagues agree that China’s excess steel production is troubling. We’re talking about a country that now produces half of the world’s steel. It has infected the global market and made steel overcapacity a global problem.
Well, we finally have an Administration willing to take action and defend our highly competitive steel industry and steelworkers.
Maybe the state of Tennessee has been lucky to avoid the devastation brought to steel towns like Steubenville, Yorkville, Martins Ferry, Warren, and Lorain, Ohio, as a result of China’s excess capacity.
But the shuttered steel mills and thousands of Ohio steelworkers who lost their jobs are constant reminders for my state that this trade enforcement action was long overdue.
We have to have steel and aluminum sectors in this country in order to defend ourselves. It’s that simple.
And we won’t have those critical sectors if our steel and aluminum producers can’t keep their doors open.
This section of statute, Section 232, was Congress’ way of acknowledging that there are connections between trade and national security. Imports can undermine our national security, and there should be ways for the President to take action when that’s the case.
The Corker amendment rejects that idea and hamstrings the President’s ability to act to protect America’s interests.
Even worse, the Corker amendment would immediately remove the Section 232 steel and aluminum tariffs, including those on China.
Why would my colleagues vote to let China off the hook?
Just look at the bipartisan effort to pass the Foreign Investment Risk Review and Modernization Act. And there is broad bipartisan support for ensuring the Administration takes a tough stance with ZTE.
But for some reason, when it comes to our aluminum and steel sectors, it’s okay to let China off the hook.
That makes no sense.
I know some of my colleagues who support the Corker amendment will say they would support the President’s actions if they were targeted just to China. They think the Corker amendment is necessary because the President has applied tariffs to our allies.
But steel overcapacity is a global problem and it needs a global solution.
If we don’t take comprehensive action, China will cheat their way into their market. Just ask ArcelorMittal, Nucor, AK Steel, or U.S. Steel to name a few domestic steel producers we have in Ohio. They’ve all seen the tricks China uses to work around our antidumping and countervailing duty laws.
Or you can look at the findings of Ambassador Lighthizer’s recent report on China’s intellectual property theft. He found that China was stealing about $50 billion of intellectual property from the U.S. each year.
The evidence is clear: China is determined to gain U.S. market share and technological advances and they will stop at nothing to get it.
I agree that we should work with our allies on this problem, and the Administration has. They’ve negotiated agreements with South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, and Australia.
Some of my colleagues are concerned about Canada and Mexico being covered by the tariffs. I share those concerns. But gutting our trade enforcement is not the answer.
Instead, I am working with the Administration to reach a solution through negotiations. I encourage my colleagues to do the same.
I talked to Ambassador Lighthizer last night. We are in a holding pattern with the NAFTA talks until Mexico’s election on July 1. But soon after that election, the NAFTA talks will pick right back up and steel and aluminum tariffs will be part of that dialogue.
Because Canada and Mexico have such close proximity to our market, they are primary targets for Chinese transshipment. We have to guard against that or the Section 232 tariffs won’t be effective.
I’m confident an agreement with our NAFTA partners can be reached, and I hope it is reached soon. Canada and Mexico are an important part of the North American steel supply chain and they are important partners in making sure our efforts to address steel overcapacity are effective.
And the tariffs have been effective. Just yesterday, Republic Steel announced that one of its rolling mills in Lorain, Ohio, would restart in September.
In Granite City, Illinois 800 steelworkers were called back to work when U.S. Steel’s furnaces came back online.
The Corker amendment would threaten these new jobs and thwart any other announcements of steel mills restarting in the U.S.
So let’s summarize this. The Corker amendment would permanently undermine a long-standing section of statute that makes sure the U.S. has the industries necessary to defend itself.
It would let bad actors like China and Russia off the hook and able to flood our market with unfairly traded steel again.
It disregards ongoing negotiations with our NAFTA partners.
And it would threaten the improvements seen in our steel and aluminum industry since the tariffs were imposed.
For all of these reasons, Mr. President, I object.