Reporting on a press interview at the AISI meeting in Phoenix, AZ, Purchasing.com relayed comments made by Nucor CEO DiMicco and others calling for trade agreements to be strictly enforced and threatening anti dumping on overseas steel suppliers. The steel producers are claiming steel imports are a direct cause of the domestic industry’s low capacity utilization rates as if somehow the laws and trade agreements can be turned on and off at will to suit the domestic producers. The fact is imports have fallen in line with domestic producers utilization rates. According to US Census Bureau data, imports in the first quarter are running at half the level they were last year and March was the lowest level of the quarter suggesting volumes are falling. In times of high demand, remember just 12 months ago, domestic producers were not able to meet market demand and without imports the US industrial machine would have been starved of material ” to the detriment of the whole economy. Even as it was, steel consumers were placed on allocation as mills exported overseas to take advantage of better prices and the (at the time) cheap dollar.
If domestic producers cannot, or will not invest in sufficient capacity to meet all of the domestic market’s need they can have no objection to imports. While competition is rarely comfortable, the fact remains the needs of the US steel consumer is of greater importance than the needs of the US steel producers, if for no other reason than there are ten times (probably 100 times) as many jobs riding on the consumers. Recognizing the importance of having a structure that allows imports in normal and peak times you can’t object when demand drops. It’s true imports do divert some demand overseas but they also keep prices at world market prices and that benefits the US economy by allowing US manufacturers to continue to compete in the global market place.