#SteelBriefs Profile - Senator Al Franken (D) MN

Senator Al Franken (D) MN

The American steel industry employs nearly 140,000 workers, supports about a million jobs in the larger economy and is vital to nearly every aspect of modern life. #Steelbriefs highlights the opinions of steel advocates in Congress on key issues critical to the steel industry by profiling members of Congress who have worked to curtail the unfair foreign trade practices that have impacted the industry, and championed other issues critical to steel like transportation, infrastructure and energy. You can follow #SteelBriefs on the American Iron and Steel Institute Twitter (@AISISteel) and Facebook channels, as well as here on steel.org.




How does the steel industry benefit your district?
Minnesota is the leading producer of iron for U.S. steel production. But on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota, our iron mining industry has suffered from a wave of closures and layoffs due to illegal, foreign-supported steel being dumped on our shores from China and other trading partners. We need to stand up for the U.S. iron and steel industry and level the global playing field.

Why does a successful steel industry benefit the nation?
Steel is the backbone of our nation’s bridges, buildings, and cars. Our steel industry is the best and most efficient in the world, and all Americans benefit from the cutting-edge products being produced in the United States. Other nations simply can’t match our ingenuity – from cleaner, more efficient mining techniques to stronger, lighter products like advanced high strength steel, we’re leading the way in developing methods and products that will touch the lives of every American.

Why is it important to address unfair trade, especially with regard to the steel industry?
When we don’t enforce strong trade protections, it means our industries face an unfair disadvantage and U.S. workers face job losses. That’s why it’s critical we keep cracking down when foreign governments like China provide illegal supports to their steel industries. Unfortunately, China is seeking to weaken our ability to levy tariffs against them for breaking our trade laws. They’re claiming that a loophole in the World Trade Organization rules requires that we treat China as a market economy, which would make it much harder for the United States to put tariffs on heavily subsidized Chinese steel. We all know China’s economy is government-dominated, so I’m going to stand up and fight against any attempts by China to weaken our trade enforcement authority.

How would your constituents be affected if trade laws are not aggressively enforced?
In Minnesota, we’ve already seen what happens when other countries violate their trade commitments. Over the last two years, seven iron mines were idled and more than 2,000 workers were laid off. Now, after more than a year of pushing for a crackdown on illegally priced steel imports, we’ve finally had significant tariffs levied on some illegal imports. That has allowed some of our mines to reopen and some of workers to get back on the job, but there’s a lot more that must be done before the industry is back at full capacity.

How is the steel industry an example of environmental stewardship?
We must be wise about using our limited natural resources, and I think there are things we can learn from the steel industry about environmental stewardship. The industry is a leader in recycling scrap and developing cleaner technologies for steel manufacturing. I see sustainability as a win-win as these practices both conserve resources and reduce harmful emissions. But there’s a third win here as well. Environmental stewardship has helped the steel industry use less energy, which improves the bottom line and saves money.

Why is national infrastructure investment important?
I’m a strong supporter of increased infrastructure investments. America should not be a country of congested highways, crumbling bridges, and poor transit. We need to build a transportation system that we can be proud of. Investing in our infrastructure creates jobs, improves safety, and strengthens our economy. Unfortunately though, our country has an infrastructure deficit that we are leaving for future generation. We need to do something about that now.

Do you have any other comments or statements about the steel industry?
The United States steel industry can compete with anyone in the world when we are on a level playing field. That’s why we need trade policies that crack down when foreign governments provide illegal subsidies or allow their companies to dump products at illegal prices. In addition, bipartisan majorities in Congress agree we need to put a stop to currency manipulation by our trading partners. And finally, China shouldn’t be granted market economy status. No serious economist would contend that China has a truly free market, and if we allow them to be granted market economy status, it could hurt our ability to enforce our trade laws.