Mahoning Valley Steelworkers China Reset

NILES, OH —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Mahoning Valley steelworkers at USW Local 2155 Union Hall in Niles to outline priorities for resetting U.S.-China trade relations in ways that produce meaningful, tangible benefits for U.S. steel companies and workers. Today, Brown will send a letter to President Trump, insisting Ohio priorities be included in the Administration’s 100 Day Plan on trade with China. 

“China cheats and they win; we play by the rules and we lose. That has to stop,” Brown said.  “China can no longer get away with cheating. Any successful plan must put a stop to Chinese steel dumping that is putting Ohio steel mills out of business and Ohio steel workers out of jobs.”

“All workers in Ohio should recognize the diligent and dedicated support that Senator Brown has struggled for regarding the principles of Fair Trade,” said Dave McCall, USW District 1 Director. “We should acknowledge the necessity of Trade with our global free market economy partners, but as Senator Brown insists it must be Fair Trade based on economic, environmental and labor standards.  It is the hope and desire of the USW that others in government will come to understand what Senator Brown understands, that in order for us to have a sustainable and balanced economy, we must have Fair Trade.”

In his letter, Brown will outline four steps to improve U.S.-China trade policy, including addressing China’s steel overcapacity and Chinese government subsidies for steel. Brown’s letter will urge Trump to:

  1. Demand China eliminate excess steel capacity

Nine of the 10 largest Chinese steel companies are owned by the Chinese government. These companies are propped up by unfair and illegal government subsidies so they can continue to operate even if they lose money. These state-supported factories overproduce and flood the global market with cheap Chinese steel, driving down steel prices which puts Ohio steel mills out of business and Ohio steel workers out of jobs.

2. Strengthen the World Trade Organization so China can’t cheat the system

We need to strengthen the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on subsidies and transparency so the U.S. and our allies can more effectively hold China accountable. Earlier this year, the Alliance for American Manufacturing released a report showing that, in decision after decision, the WTO has ruled against the U.S. and weakened our laws designed to fight back against these unfair subsidies and illegal dumping. This is the opposite of what should happen. The WTO should crack down on China’s cheating, not U.S. trade laws that help our workers and steel companies.  China cheats and they win. We play by the rules and we lose. That has to stop.

3. Insist that China drop its WTO case against the U.S.

China currently has a case before the WTO claiming the U.S. needs to treat China as a market economy – but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The Chinese government puts the thumb on the scales for its companies – often companies owned or controlled by the government, including steel. That’s not a free market. If China wins its case at the WTO – as they have too many times before – it would dramatically weaken the U.S.’s ability to fight back against illegal dumping that hurts Ohio steel jobs.

4. Don’t let China set the agenda – no Bilateral Investment Treaty until China cleans up its act

We know the Bilateral Investment Treaty is one of China’s priorities. Rewarding China with expanded U.S. market access is the last thing we should be doing while they cheat. We need to halt negotiations until China complies with the laws already on the books.

Brown authored the Leveling the Playing Field Act, which he worked with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to pass into law in 2015, in order to give Ohio companies more tools when fighting unfair trade practices by China and other countries.

In March, Brown met with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to discuss how they can work together and with President Trump to negotiate better trade deals for Ohio workers and boost Ohio’s steel industry. In the meeting, Brown raised several of his priorities for working with the Commerce Department, including addressing steel overcapacity, currency manipulation, and maintaining China’s nonmarket economy status.

Brown also joined Portman and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) to invite Ross to visit Lorain to meet with steelworkers and steel companies to see the impact of unfair trade on Ohio’s manufacturing sector. Ross committed to visit Lorain in separate meetings with Brown and Kaptur.

In April, Brown and Portman applauded Commerce Department action against unfair oil country tubular good (OCTG) imports from Korea that affected American OCTG producers including Vallourec Star in Youngstown and Wheatland Tube in Warren. Following Brown and Portman’s urging, Commerce found that Korean steel producers have been unfairly dumping imports into the U.S. market, leaving Ohio steelworkers and steel companies at a competitive disadvantage.

Brown has held a series of roundtables with Ohio workers in recent weeks to get their input on what the priorities should be for renegotiated trade deals. Brown wrote to President Trump to outlining a strategy for renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Immediately after President Trump’s election, Brown reached out to his transition team to offer his help on retooling U.S. trade policy. Brown wrote to Trump in November offering specific steps to work together on trade and Trump responded with a handwritten note.