The National Association of Manufacturers said Thursday that it was "committed" to working with the Trump administration in the Commerce Department's probe of whether China and other U.S. trading partners are dumping steel.
The trade association, whose members span all industries, said it wants the U.S. to have a robust but fair trade relationship with China and other countries.
"The U.S.-China commercial relationship holds potential for the growth and expansion of manufacturing here at home — but we still have a long way to go to make the trading relationship fair. Manufacturers in the United States are committed to working with the Trump administration to build a robust trading relationship with China – but will not settle for anything less than a free and fair competitive landscape where both countries are playing by the same rules," said NAM Vice President Linda Dempsey.
The group said Beijing "does not always play by the same rules" and its actions therefore merited scrutiny. "China has made some market openings in recent years and U.S. sales in China have expanded. Yet, manufacturers throughout the United States in multiple sectors continue to see an expansion of a wide range of market-distorting and damaging industrial policies and other measures — from subsidies leading to overcapacity and other distortions, discriminatory import barriers and forced localization to intellectual property theft and technology transfer."
The statement followed an announcement Thursday by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that the administration was opening an investigation into whether steel imports were hurting national security. Ross vowed to "conduct this investigation thoroughly and expeditiously so that, if necessary, we can take actions to defend American national security, workers, and businesses against foreign threats."
The announcement, which invoked Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, could lead to countervailing duties driving up foreign steel prices up, but Ross stressed that the investigation was still in its early stages. "No decision has been made to take any concrete actions as yet," the commerce secretary said.
The announcement could mean relief for domestic steel producers but trouble for companies that import it. Imports now represent 26 percent of the steel market and domestic mills and foundries are operating at just 71 percent of capacity, the department reported.
The investigation follows another Commerce Department probe announced Tuesday into whether China is dumping hardwood plywood and if 10 other countries are dumping carbon and alloy steel wire rod into the U.S.