U.S. Steel Manufacturers Face Backlash From American Companies

American steel manufacturers have been accused by U.S. companies of spreading inaccurate information. According to CBS News, U.S. companies say they’re worried their requests to be exempted from President Donald Trump’s tariff on imported steel will be rejected because steel manufacturers have supposedly spread misleading information.

The tariff imposed by President Donald Trump places a 25% tax on steel imports. The goal of the tariff was to give the U.S. steel industry a leg up against foreign competitors. Yet, the tariff is having a major impact on American businesses that rely on steel imports.

CEO of NLMK USA Robert Miller, whose company imports steel from Russia, said that the objections that were made to his request for a waiver from the tariff were inaccurate.

Miller said that NLMK USA has already paid $80 million in duties. If the company isn’t excused from the 25% tariff, he says, they could be forced out of business.

U.S. Steel and Nucor, the country’s largest steel producers, were those who objected to the Miller’s request. Since the tariff was passed, Nucor’s profits have more than doubled.

“They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” said Miller.

Miller isn’t the only executive who disagrees with the Commerce Department and how they’ve been evaluating company requests for exemption. Many executives say they fear the agency could be swayed by domestic steel suppliers backing the tariff.

The U.S. produced 82 million metric tons of steel in 2017, but many of the steel used in the U.S. is imported. Up to 17% of imported steel into the U.S. comes from Canada.

Companies that rely on imported steel to make their goods have also been negatively impacted by the tariff. CNN reports that recent tariffs have eaten into the profits of General Electric, 3M, General Motors, Harley-Davidson, and hundreds of other companies.

Because of this, the tariff could also impact the metalworking fluids industry, which sold 2.5 metric tonnes in 2016 alone and sells to these types of manufacturers. It could also impact the U.S. snowmobiling industry, which takes in $26 billion every year, come winter if it’s already impacting Harley-Davidson.

U.S. Steel responded to the accusations, saying that it based its objections on detailed information about the chemistry and dimensions of the steel involved in the requests.

“We read what is publicly posted and respond,” said U.S. Steel spokesperson Meghan Cox.

U.S. Steel and Nucor say that steel slab is readily available in the United States. But Miller and other American companies including California Steel Industry and Plains All American Pipeline disagree.

The Commerce Department has received more than 20,000 waiver applications since President Donald Trump initiated the tariff. Trump and European leaders recently agreed not to escalate the trade dispute.

“The intent here is to restrict imports on a broad scale,” said Richard Chriss, the executive director of the American Institute for International Steel. “It wouldn’t make sense from the administration’s perspective to design a process that readily granted exclusions.”

The Commerce Department has made a small number of their rulings open to the public. Thus far, 760 requests have been approved and 552 have been denied. The Department has declined comment about companies’ objections to the rulings.

Metal packaging manufacturer Crown Cork and Seal submitted an attachment to their waiver application described by CNBC as “sharply-worded.” The Philadelphia-based company submitted the attachment expecting pushback.

The attachment stated that American steel mills are unable to meet the demand for tinplate. “We anticipate the U.S. mill will attempt to rebut this statement when they object to this exclusion request,” said Crown Cork and Seal, “but we encourage the Department of Commerce to see through their manipulative attempt to exploit the rules of the exclusion request process.”

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