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Stop foreign dumping, U.S. Steel CEO Longhi tells Congress

| Thursday, March 26, 2015, 10:41 p.m.

The domestic steel industry is being flooded with subsidized imports that threaten to shut down mills, lay off workers and put companies out of business, the CEO of U.S. Steel Corp. told lawmakers Thursday in Washington.

Mario Longhi, testifying before the Congressional Steel Caucus, said the industry is facing a “torrent of steel imports” that are unfairly subsidized by foreign governments and that undercut American-produced steel.

“The last time we were at these levels, nearly half of American steel companies disappeared,” Longhi said, according to his prepared remarks.

“Today, across the country, once again, mills are idled,” he said. “Plants continue to be shut down. American workers are laid off.”

Longhi called for Congress to more strongly enforce trade laws and to bolster standards for determining if companies have been hurt by foreign dumping.

Steelmakers recently won a dumping case and are keeping pressure on lawmakers and the federal government to do more.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, agreed that the process for determining injury from steel dumping should be reviewed. Murphy, who chairs the steel caucus, said it was unfair that plants needed to be shut down and workers laid off before companies can prove injury.

“Once that's occurred, it's too late to do anything,” he said.

Murphy cited U.S. Steel's tubular works plant in McKeesport, which the company idled last year, laying off 180 workers, because of slowing demand.

“We should be having a huge surge of demand for pipe” from the energy industry, he said. “They're being undercut by foreign countries as they subsidize their steel illegally.”

U.S. Steel, which is in the process of restructuring to cut costs and improve profits under the Carnegie Way Initiative, also has had its business decline because energy companies are reducing investment in production and pipe purchases as oil prices have fallen. That has limited demand for steel pipe used to drill for oil and gas.

Downtown-based U.S. Steel, the nation's largest steel company, has closed or temporarily idled plants in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota and Alabama in recent months in response to low prices, competition from cheaper imports and falling demand for steel. Thousands of workers have lost their jobs.

The company's latest moves to deal with the harsh market conditions were announced Wednesday. It said that it will temporarily shut down the Granite City Works plant in Illinois just north of St. Louis, putting at risk more than 2,000 jobs as it shifts flat-rolled operations to four other facilities.

Plant closings combined with the company's Carnegie Way cost savings helped U.S. Steel last year reach its first yearly profit since 2008.

While steel imports have been increasing, the American Iron and Steel Institute reported this week that imports declined in February, compared with January. The Washington-based industry group said the United States imported 3.6 million net tons of steel last month, down 18 percent from the previous month.

Nations such as South Korea, Turkey and Japan exported less steel to the United States in February, but China expanded exports by 33 percent.

Murphy cited China's growing production during the caucus hearing. He said the country, which has been accused of unfairly manipulating its currency to give Chinese companies an advantage, is on pace to produce as much steel as the rest of the world combined this year, “despite steel usage in China only being up 1 percent in 2014.”

Alex Nixon is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7928 or anixon@tribweb.com.

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