#SteelBriefs Profile - Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Senator Amy Klobuchar (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 state or district? Why does a successful steel industry benefit the nation?

The steel industry is vital to the economic prosperity of my state and the country as a whole. Mining has always been a way of life for families on Minnesota's Iron Range. Throughout our state's history, iron ore mining has not only brought jobs to the region, it has also built our country, from our roads, bridges, buildings, and railways, to the tanks and ships critical to our nation's defense. Minnesota's Iron Range boasts the largest concentration of iron ore in the U.S., and supplied most of the iron used in World War II. Right now, Minnesota is first in the nation in the movement of iron ore, with more than 4,000 jobs associated with the iron ore and steel industries.

Why is it important to address unfair trade, especially with regard to the steel industry?

Unfair trade practices have significant economic implications. Our steelworkers can compete with anyone in the world, but when foreign producers engage in unfair trade practices in our country, like dumping cheap steel, it undercuts our domestic industry and puts American jobs at risk. American businesses and workers deserve a level playing field. In the case of China, it goes beyond steel dumping. China manipulates its currency, transships steel, and there have been allegations that China hacked U.S. Steel's computer system to get trade secrets. These actions threaten American jobs. We must enforce our trade laws to hold cheaters accountable and ensure our trading partners play by the rules.

How would your constituents be affected if trade laws are not aggressively enforced?

Over the last few years, more than 1,400 steel workers and miners in Minnesota were laid off in the worst mining and steel industry downturn in decades. In Minnesota, U.S. Steel, Steel Dynamics, and Cliffs Natural Resources were forced to idle plants and lay off hundreds of workers. Magnetation, a natural resources and iron ore mining company with four plants in Minnesota, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May of 2015 and the company just announced it may have to shut down its Grand Rapids plant. This downturn threatens the very survival of the U.S. mining and steel industries--and with it, our nation's security and our state's economic health. If we are aggressive about enforcing our trade laws, there is reason to be hopeful.

The strong enforcement we have been pushing for is working. We got the ENFORCE Act passed as part of the customs bill so that we can catch foreign companies who are breaking our trade laws and better enforce tariffs against countries that dump cheap steel on our shores. We got 38 new trade enforcement specialists at the Commerce Department and Customs and Border Patrol agents have increased enforcement against steel dumpers by requiring collection of AD/CVD duties upfront on suspect shipments. I introduced a bill, the Trade Enforcement Improvement Act, to crack down on illegal steel dumping by strengthening trade enforcement. Last December, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough came to the Iron Range at our urging. I fought hard to get Denis McDonough to the Iron Range because I knew how important it was for him to see our challenges firsthand. We got results from that visit and from pushing the President do more on steel enforcement. While not a silver bullet, the customs enforcement bill and the new executive actions will help. We are already seeing results in Minnesota where hundreds of workers have been called back to the job. In addition to these enforcement actions, the President's 2017 Budget contains additional funding for trade enforcement. We cannot ever declare success until every worker has their job back.

How is the steel industry an example of environmental stewardship?

Iron ore mining and processing facilities in Minnesota follow strict environmental laws and are some of the most environmentally compliant in the world. This is in stark contrast to countries like China whose steel industry and its reliance on cheap iron ore from Australia is significantly damaging air quality.

Why is national infrastructure investment important?

Investment in infrastructure is an investment in our people and in our shared future. It's also about the strength of our economy. For too long, our nation has neglected making the investments in our roads, bridges, and transit systems that we need to stay competitive with economies around the world. According to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, if it's not addressed, deteriorating infrastructure will cost our economy nearly $4 trillion in lost GDP by 2025, leading to the loss of 2.5 million jobs. It's estimated that every American household will lose $3,400 each year from 2016 to 2025 thanks to sub-par infrastructure.

That's why I fought to pass the bipartisan Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act last year, which will increase transportation funding for Minnesota and provide state and local transportation leaders with the certainty they need to move forward on critical transportation projects. Under the FAST Act, Minnesota will get more than $4 billion in federal transportation funding over five years. From building capacity on roadways to upgrading deficient bridges to improving safety on rural roads, these investments boost our state's ability to address real transportation needs.