Tracy Porter, president of CMC Americas and chairman of the Steel Manufacturers Association (SMA) told journalists recently that the US steel industry continues to face challenging market conditions.
Domestic mills, he said, have produced 57.6Mt this year (2016) down 1.1% from last year's already low levels. He said that the US capacity utilisation rate – the most recent figure being 70.8% – has consistently lagged behind the global figure and that the overcapacity problem was the chief cause of the US steel industry's woes.
"US markets, which are open and relatively strong, continue to be flooded with offshore imports from a range of nations and in virtually every product category. American steel producers, the workforce, and surrounding communities bear the brunt of global overcapacity," he said, adding that there is some good news.
There have been positive developments, he said, on the trade legislation front. "Congress passed bipartisan trade remedy and enforcement legislation in 2015, and these measures have already had a positive impact on recent steel trade case determinations," he said. "Also, earlier this year, Congress passed the ENFORCE Act as part of the Customs bill. If properly implemented, these provisions can have a major impact in addressing duty evasion and trade schemes."
Porter believes that trade cases and remedies have helped in some instances. "But they alone will not solve the problem," he argued. "We urge the Administration to keep the overcapacity issue front and centre in multi-lateral forums, such as the OECD Steel Committee, which will meet in Paris next month."
According to Porter, the time has come 'for the dialogue to result in meaningful, transparent commitments that yield significant net capacity reductions'.
Despite the problems facing US steelmakers, Porter cites reasons for optimism. The passing of the FAST Act, a multi-year surface transportation bill, gives states the ability to participate in large-scale project planning. "As such we anticipate that some long overdue infrastructure projects will finally proceed," he said, adding that, moving forward, he would like to see increased investment levels and steps to address the future solvency of the highway trust fund.
Porter said that investment in the USA's inland waterways should be top priority and was hopeful that Congress would pass a new Water Resources Development Act during its current session.
On matters close to Porter's heart, he said that EAF producers continue to operate 'sustainable, world-class facilities'. "Companies like mine are eager to invest in our businesses and communities. CMC is excited to have broken ground on our new minimill in Durant, Oklahoma. Sound public policy will help ensure that the US remains a viable place to do business," he concluded.