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Sessions fights for a stronger response to illegal trade practices costing Alabama jobs

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)

WASHINGTON–  Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions, leading a bipartisan group of his colleagues, sent a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker Wednesday asking for stronger assistance from the Obama administration in combatting illegal trade practices by foreign competitors who are providing foreign subsidies to undercut the jobs and wages of American workers.

Senator Sessions and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), members of the U.S. Senate Steel Caucus, were joined by Reps. Murphy (R-PA) and Visclosky (D-IN), co-Chairmen of the House Steel Caucus in penning the letter.

“We are writing to encourage you to use reprogramming authority to provide the necessary resources for the Office of Enforcement and Compliance (OEC) to investigate the historic number of trade petitions recently filed with the office by U.S. industry,” the lawmakers wrote. “These antidumping and countervailing duty cases, many of which have been brought by the steel industry, are American manufacturers’ most effective method of addressing foreign competitors’ unfair trade practices.  As such, it is critical that the OEC has sufficient analysts to conduct these investigations and evaluate the trade petitions in an accurate and efficient manner.”

The effects of the illegal trade practices by foreign competitors have already begun to be felt right here in the Yellowhammer State.

Last month, United States Steel Corporation (U.S. Steel) announced its plans to permanently close a blast furnace as well as some other operations at its Fairfield Works location in Jefferson County, a decision that will affect 1,100 employees.

The proposal of the permanent closure was initiated after U.S. Steel “conducted a market analysis of the company’s current and long-term global operational footprint competitiveness,” according to the Birmingham Business Journal. “Global influences in the market, like unfair trade and fluctuating oil prices, continue to have an impact on the business,” U.S. Steel said in a statement in January when the notification of layoffs were just beginning. This statement was clearly reaffirmed by their findings in the company’s recent market analysis.

Several countries, including China have been accused by U.S. lawmakers of participating in a practice called “dumping,” or flooding the market with goods priced under cost in order to drive out competition. Dumping is considered grounds for economic retaliation under international guidelines.

According to Sessions’s office, there are currently 6 major trade cases before the International Trade Commission covering both hot and cold-rolled steel and the pipe and tube industry, which has a significant presence in Alabama.