While the liberal media and world elites panic about the Trump Administration’s proposed tariffs on unfairly supported foreign steel, we need to remember the American success story that is Harley Davidson. Harley Davidson thrives today, and nearly 10,000 Americans are employed, because President Ronald Regan stepped in and imposed tariffs on unfairly supported foreign heavyweight motorcycles 34 years ago.
By giving the sole American motorcycle maker some breathing room to retool, Harley was able to get its act together, turn profitable, and even request the tariff protection be ended early.
Today, Harley is a vibrant American icon competing successfully in the world economy. The high-skilled workers and innovative engineering, or American know-how, can match any competition around the world proudly and successfully. The changes didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of work and sacrifice, but because President Regan stood up for the American worker, against the world nay-sayers and ignored doom and gloom comments from free trade economists (and their media cohorts), Harley was able to do exactly what Regan expected – take the opportunity to be the best heavy bike company in the world. All they needed was a level playing field.
Fast-forward 34 years later and we have a steel industry in a position very similar to that of Harley in the 1980’s. U.S. Steel has been beaten down for decades by illegal dumping, foreign government subsidies and policies that hurt competitiveness.
It’s time we put America’s Steel companies and workers first in our economy. Not by creating a closed market like in so many parts of the world, but by creating a fair market. As with Harley, American steel workers can compete with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Steel is not just some material we need for buildings and cars. It’s essential to America’s national security.
Thomas J. Gibson is president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute stated in an Op-Ed on CNN’s website stated: “As the backbone of American manufacturing, the steel industry is essential to the world's water and food supply, energy generation and national security. The U.S. military uses steel extensively, ranging from aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines to missiles, armor plate for tanks and every major military aircraft in production. There are a lot of reasons to take pride in American steel.
“But today, our steel industry is being hurt by an unprecedented surge in unfairly traded imports, with record amounts of foreign-produced steel flooding into the United States. Cheap, subsidized foreign imports are taking steel jobs away.
“In 2015, almost one in three tons of steel sold in the United States was produced outside the country. The import crisis is now beginning to get the national attention it deserves. The crisis has become the topic of presidential debates, candidate interviews and stump speeches. And it's about time.
“Steel supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. But because of these unfairly traded imports, many American steel producers have had to make difficult decisions affecting steelmaking communities. Steel companies have closed down major facilities, or reduced production at those plants, resulting in devastating layoffs and job losses for many families who have made steel for generations. More than 12,000 steel jobs were lost in 2016 alone.”
The American Steel Workers Union has also sounded the alarm about the dangers of losing our ability to produce American Steel for America.
The Trump Administration has initiated Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, allowing the president to initiate an investigation to determine whether our security is threatened by imports (threats can include: “substantial unemployment … decrease in government revenue … displacement of any domestic products by excessive imports,” among others.
His strongest support comes from the steel workers themselves. United Steel Workers International Vice President Tom Conway stated in a recent radio interview:
“Trade has been fundamentally a broken system,” said Conway. “This 232 can be designed to take a broad look at America’s critical infrastructure and its ability to meet its national defense needs.”
“National defense means more than just the military, said Conway, although the military also needs steel and aluminum, two goods that are currently under Section 232 investigations. National defense also requires having stable systems like roads and bridges, electrical grids and water distribution.
“Your national defense should include your national infrastructure and your ability to move your equipment around your country,” said Conway. To do that effectively, the administration must protect America’s capacity to make steel and aluminum.
“There is a core group of people we believe in the White House who understand this is an important fight to carry forward, and hopefully they prevail upon this president to do the right thing,” Conway said.
Just like Harley and Ronald Regan, President Trump and American steel workers understand free trade means American know-how will win the day.
Ohio’s Next Generation supports giving our critical steel industry the tools it needs to fairly compete and encourage these companies to continue to innovate and engineer their way to global success in a fair market.