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Amendment would protect workers at Cleveland-Cliffs, whose electrical steel products are critical to grid infrastructure and national security – but are being undercut by Russia & China

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) fought to protect Pennsylvania workers this week by filing a bipartisan amendment with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) to strengthen trade protections for U.S. steel workers in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which the Senate is considering this weekend. Cleveland-Cliffs is the largest producer of flat-rolled steel in North America and North America’s only producer of grain-oriented electrical steel (GOES), which is used in U.S. electrical grid transformers. But right now, Russia and China are circumventing U.S. trade laws by shifting their typical steel production to GOES and moving these products through Canada and Mexico, in order to get around U.S. steel tariffs.

Cleveland-Cliffs employs thousands of workers in good-paying union jobs between its plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Not only are U.S. jobs at risk due to this circumvention, but U.S. national security could also be impacted if the U.S. has no choice but to buy foreign GOES products from China and Russia for things like our electrical grid. As a result, Senators Casey, Brown and Cassidy introduced a bipartisan amendment to protect and prioritize U.S. production.

“For years, Senator Brown and I have fought to protect AK Steel, America’s last electrical steel manufacturer, from trade cheating. When countries cheat on trade, Pennsylvanians lose their jobs, but when trade cheating impacts critical infrastructure, like our electrical grid, it also becomes a matter of urgent national security. This bipartisan amendment will prevent countries like China and Russia from circumventing our trade laws and ensure we are not reliant on foreign adversaries to supply our electrical grid,” said Senator Casey.

“I greatly appreciate the strong bipartisan leadership of Senators Brown, Casey and Cassidy in offering this amendment, which calls on USTR to negotiate and resolve this recurring problem with Mexico and Canada once and for all. Domestic production of electrical steels is critical to the modernization and greening of America’s electric grid and to the electrification of the American vehicle fleet. However, unfair trade practices have infected the domestic electrical steel market, first through the prevalence of dumped and subsidized imports of Grain Oriented Electrical Steel (GOES), and more recently through the circumvention of the steel tariffs involving the importation of electrical steel laminations and cores produced in Mexico and Canada from GOES produced overseas. As Congress prepares to invest billions of dollars to upgrade America’s electric power infrastructure, it is imperative that this circumvention activity be addressed in order to preserve not only our ability to continue to produce electrical steels in the United States, but also to preserve and grow the significant number of good paying middle-class union jobs associated to the production of GOES by Americans, for our own benefit in the United States,” said Lourenco Goncalves, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.

“Our national security depends on goods produced from Grain Oriented Electrical Steel by UAW members in Ohio and Pennsylvania. This once thriving industry, decimated by tariffs and steel dumping from foreign competitors, primarily China, leave only Cleveland-Cliffs production available. It is imperative to preserve these U.S. good paying union jobs and to protect our national security interest by making sure this industry can be competitive and produced on-shore. To protect 1400 jobs and prevent reliance on foreign steel it is crucial that the bi-partisan infrastructure bill include this important amendment,” said Ray Curry, President of the United Auto Workers.

This amendment would prioritize U.S. jobs and national security by directing the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to enter into negotiations with Canada and Mexico to ensure that:

  • The national security of the United States is not impaired through the importation of GOES core parts, laminations and cores for use in our electric grid transformers; and
  • Canada and Mexico are not being used as staging grounds for tariff circumvention.

The amendment would also require USTR to submit a status report to Congress every 90 days until Mexico and Canada agree to measures that will prevent the importation of GOES core parts from impairing U.S. national security.

Read the amendment here.

Senator Casey has consistently advocated for AK Steel and workers around the region. Below is a timeline of his work on the issue:

February 13, 2018: Senator Casey raised concerns and asked for action on AK Steel and electrical steel directly to the President at the White House, in advance of the 232 announcement. At that meeting multiple Senators raised concerns about electrical steel.

March 7, 2018: Before the 232 was finalized, Senator Casey sent a letter to the President with Senators Portman and Brown raising concerns about a loophole in the 232 for electrical steel. The Senators urged the Administration to take additional action to cover electrical steel cores and laminations in the 232.

June 20, 2018: Senator Casey asked Secretary Ross to take action on downstream electrical steel products at a Finance Committee Hearing. At that hearing, Secretary Ross assured Senator Casey that downstream electrical steel products (such as cores and laminations) would be included “very shortly” in the 232. “I  believe  there  is  no  doubt  that  they  [downstream electrical steel products] will  be  included.”

October 31, 2019: Senator Casey sent a letter with Senators Portman and Brown to USTR Lighthizer asking USTR initiate a surge investigation on imports of electrical steel cores and laminates from Mexico and Canada.

April 25, 2020: Senator Casey spoke with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

May 1, 2020: Senators Casey and Brown spoke with Commerce Secretary Ross.