Wednesday 24 April 2024

Senators, Union Workers Call On Joe Biden to Hike Aluminum Tariffs to Save American Jobs

 A group of Republican and Democrat senators, along with the United Steelworkers (USW), are calling on President Joe Biden to hike United States tariffs on imported aluminum to save American jobs.

In a letter to Biden’s Commerce Department Secretary Gina Raimondo, the senators warn that aluminum extrusion plants in the U.S. are at risk of being eliminated as a result of imported aluminum extrusions.

“Domestic manufacturers and the workers who support the upstream and downstream aluminum supply chains here in the U.S. can’t compete with merchandise that’s subsidized and unfairly dumped,” the senators write.

In particular, the senators say foreign countries — such as China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam — are “exporting a high volume of aluminum extrusions at unfair prices, putting American workers at a disadvantage.”

While such imports from these countries increased by more than 40 percent from 2019 to 2020, the senators note that American manufacturers’ share of the aluminum extrusion market has fallen by 11 percent.

The results have been devastating for American communities where aluminum extrusion plants have lost shifts and jobs or closed altogether. 

“We must ensure that American workers do not continue to suffer from unfairly traded imports and that countries like China and Vietnam do not maintain an unfair advantage when producing these critical products,” the senators write, calling on the Biden administration to rigorously investigate the matter and hike tariffs:

Despite significant investment, robust demand, and a talented workforce, American workers cannot compete when they are at a disadvantage. Using the trade enforcement mechanisms at our disposal to level the playing field for domestic producers will help counter unfairly traded aluminum extrusions, promote U.S. production, support good-paying jobs, and strengthen our national security. We ask that the Commerce Department carefully interpret the scope of these investigations to be consistent with the intent of the petitioners to evaluate action on the broad variety of aluminum extrusion products currently in jeopardy. [Emphasis added]

Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mike Braun (R-IN), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Fetterman (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), J.D. Vance (R-OH), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) signed the letter.

The nation’s aluminum industry has taken massive hits in recent years.

In August 2022, the second largest aluminum mill in the U.S. temporarily idled operations, laying off about 600 American workers, because of sky-high energy prices.

Similarly, Magnitude 7 Metals (Mag7) in New Madrid County, Missouri, shut down in January, laying off some 500 American workers. The aluminum plant, one of the few remaining in the U.S., had been saved from closure thanks to former President Donald Trump’s tariffs in 2018 after having closed in 2016 under former President Barack Obama.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called on Biden to intervene and save the aluminum plant from closure by invoking the Defense Production Act of 1950. The administration has yet to take any action on the issue.

In 2023, an aluminum plant in Whatcom County, Washington, closed along with an aluminum plant in Hancock County, Kentucky, which saw nearly 1,000 American workers laid off.

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