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US House introduces bill to combat unfair trade; steel could benefit

Highlights

Bill targets remedies against China steel overcapacity

Steel industry welcomes bill to strengthen trade laws

Bipartisan US Representatives Terri Sewell of Alabama and Bill Johnson of Ohio introduced legislation in the US House of Representatives Dec. 2 that seeks to combat China's unfair trade practices and industrial overcapacity with an eye on protecting the domestic steel industry, among other sectors.

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"This targeted bill will modernize our antidumping and countervailing duty protections to combat China's subsidies, prevent China's circumvention of US laws and penalize repeat offenders by expediting successive investigations to stop country-hopping and duty evasion," Sewell said during a House trade subcommittee hearing. "These are common sense bipartisan solutions to protect American workers and get a tough on China's anti-market practices."

Particularly, Sewell, a Democrat, said China's steel overcapacity has hurt the US industry.

"China's steel overcapacity has hurt steel workers and manufacturers in my district," she said. "In 2016, a steel manufacturing facility in Fairfield, Alabama, was forced to downsize after China's steel capacity devastated the global market for domestic producers."

"Congress must do more to combat China's anti-free market practices and ensure that our steel workers can compete on a level playing field," she added.

United Steelworkers Legislative Director Roy Houseman said the bill, named the "Level the Playing Field Act," could bolster the US' current trade petition system for antidumping and countervailing duty cases.

"This opportunity here is to help instruct the international trade commission to consider previous successful petitions in a more meaningful way," he said during the hearing. "This will save workers and employers resources so that they're spending more money on rebuilding plants and not fighting and paying for lawyers."

The American Iron and Steel Institute, or AISI, applauded the introduction of the bill, adding that it will "crack down on trade cheating and enhance the tools available to combat repeat offenders of the US trade remedy laws."

"American steelmakers have repeatedly won relief against unfair trade practices under the US trade laws only to face new surges of steel imports of the same products from other countries not subject to the original antidumping or countervailing duty orders," AISI CEO Kevin Dempsey said in a Dec. 2 statement.

"This bill creates a new process for successive investigations to provide for more timely relief against these subsequent surges than under the current system."