On Tuesday, April 12 Senator Al Franken testified to the U.S. Trade Representative that illegal steel coming from China and other countries is hurting the Iron Range and the lives of everyday Minnesotans. Franken argues this has harmed the mining industry in Minnesota which is the backbone of the American steel industry. Steel from the Iron Range helps to build American cars, bridges and buildings.
In his testimony Franken points out that China’s underpricing of steel (steel dumping) has forced Minnesotans to lose their jobs, and sometimes uproot their families and even switch careers. “In the last two years, six of our mines have closed down or reduced capacity. That’s put more than 2,000 Minnesotans out of work,” said Franken.
Franken noted that although it is to be expected that the Minnesota steel industry would be negatively affected by the 2008 financial crisis, this time the industry is having a harder time making a full recovery like it did following previous economic downturns. China and other foreign entities have effectively lowered its steel prices so much so that Minnesota’s mining industry simply can’t compete.
Franken believes the problem of illegal steel dumping by China and other foreign countries can be reduced by direct engagement with countries. During this engagement, steel subsidies and “misaligned incentives” need to tweaked. By doing this, Franken believes steel overcapacity will be ended, and the their prices will rise. In other words In other words, China and other countries have too much steel, and therefore subsidies from the U.S. government should not be given to these foreign imports, and neither should incentives that hurt workers.
Tariffs are also on the table, says Franken. Franken and Senator Amy Klobuchar introduced a bill last year to impose retroactive tariffs “when US industries face critical circumstances.” The bill has yet to be passed by congress.
Due to large layoffs, and the shrinking Iron Range economy, Governor Mark Dayton passed an extension of Iron Range workers’ unemployment benefits with the help of both parties. Figuring out ways to improve the Iron Range economy have not been without controversy. In early March, Governor Dayton rejected Twin Metals’ proposal to mine near Ely, Minnesota for environmental reasons.
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