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Pa. Lawmakers: Tariffs Key to Strong Steel Industry

Co-chairs of state house steel caucus express concerns over pressure to ease levies

By Emily Scott © Public News Service
The Tube City Almanac
March 25, 2022
Posted in: State & Region

The United States and the United Kingdom have struck a deal to remove U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum along with U.K. tariffs on U.S. bluejeans, whiskey and motorcycles.

Some Pennsylvania lawmakers said the steel tariffs have been key to leveling the global playing field. In 2018, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act was used to impose 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs, respectively, on some steel and aluminum imports to stabilize domestic production.

State Rep. Frank Burns, a Johnstown Democrat and co-chair of the House Steel Caucus, said the federal government should be cautious about easing tariffs on some countries.

“If we relax the Section 232 majors, foreign steel production in other countries that have little or no environmental regulations will stand to capture more market share,” Burns said. “And put our workers in jeopardy because they’ll continue to dump cheap foreign steel into the United States.”

Pennsylvania’s steel industry employs more than 34,000 people, who earn $3.14 billion in wages and salaries annually.

State Rep. Natalie Mihalek, Republican of Upper St. Clair and the other co-chair of the House Steel Caucus, said one concern is that some other countries do not follow the same strict regulations American steelworkers and companies do.

“China’s government heavily subsidizes its companies, most of which are in fact state-owned or controlled, meaning that they can price their goods far below market value,” Mihalek said. “Companies here in the United States and in Pennsylvania, our workers face tougher labor and environmental laws than the competitors abroad.”

China is the number one producer of steel globally, according to the World Steel Association, although its production outstrips domestic demand. Last month, the U.S. announced it was relaxing the Section 232 tariffs on Japan and the European Union.

Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia for Public News Service, where this story first appeared. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

Originally published March 25, 2022.

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