With the explosion of oil and gas exploration in the USA, demand for drilling steel and distribution pipeline has grown dramatically, and so too has the voice of domestic US steel suppliers as imports threaten closure of local mills.
Some politicians are fighting back on behalf of industry and the employment it brings, such as Senator James Brewster of McKeesport in Pennsylvania who has introduced three bills into the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee.
- The use of domestically made steel in the gathering lines that transport natural gas.
- Domestic steel to be used in well safety devices.
- The Department of Environmental Protection to keep a searchable, easily accessible database regarding the country of origin or products used in well drilling.
This illustrates a solid willingness of elected representatives to get involved and take action when they perceive a threat to local industry from imports. Senator Brewster’s chief of staff said that “Tubular steel could just be the start of steel dumping,” adding another voice to the many accusations of dumping from across affected States.
In New Zealand, we also have a steel industry and fears of dumping – though very hard to prove – seem to have been part and parcel of much of the last decade. It is quite understandable that steel mills might sell at less than cost where they have an oversupply of capacity as is the current case in China (see last HERA News), however if unchecked the impact on local jobs can be significant.
But it isn’t only in the import of steel products that we need to be vigilant; there is also the issue of steel being sold at less than cost to foreign manufacturers, who then tender on jobs that our companies are also tendering on, thereby getting an unfair and hidden advantage.
From what we see in the USA, their elected representatives are not shy in stepping forward in defense of local industry, and clearly see it as their duty. Next time our industry is up against similar threats, let’s hope our politicians at least recognize them for what they are and have the nerve to stand up and do something about it.
Free trade agreements are not an excuse for inaction, and I don’t think any ordinary Kiwi would expect anything less.