Casey joins U.S. steelworkers’ union in calling for investigation into China’s shipbuilding practices

The United Steelworkers union submitted a petition to U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai on Tuesday, accusing China of using “protectionist and predatory policies” in the global shipbuilding industry, calling on President Joe Biden to conduct a trade investigation into China’s practices in the maritime sector, logistics sector and shipbuilding industry.

China “has been relentless in its efforts to use its commercial shipbuilding industry to dominate the full spectrum of global trade, stifling competition, so it’s time for us to push back,” David McCall, president of USW, said at a press conference Tuesday. “The United States used to be a leader in this industry. But with the collapse of our shipbuilding industry, our nation lost over 70,000 shipbuilding jobs, not to mention all the indirect secondary jobs as well.”

The USW was joined in the petition by four other unions — the International Association of Aerospace Machinists (IAM); International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Ironworkers, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (IBB); International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); AND
Maritime Trade Department, AFL-CIO (MTD). The petition cites Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows USTR to “respond to unreasonable or discriminatory practices of a foreign government that burden or restrict U.S. commerce.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said at a news conference that China is a “predatory regime” that undermines American workers and workers around the world through its “deceptive practices” and has been doing so for many years.

“China has defrauded global trade practices by attempting to establish dominance in the maritime, logistics and shipbuilding industries, as well as all supply chains related to these industries,” Casey said. “To protect the American steel industry, our workers and our jobs, we must crack down difficult – not just make speeches and operate rhetoric – we must crack down decisively on this regime and hold the regime, and especially President Xi, accountable for what his regime does “.

Employment of American steel and steelworkers came to the fore delayed last year when Casey and other Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers, along with the USW, criticized the proposed sale of Pittsburgh-based US Steel to Japan’s Nippon Steel for more than $14 billion.

US Steel: Fetterman and Casey criticize company’s proposed $14 billion sale of Nippon Steel

According to a petition submitted to the USTR on Tuesday, in 2012 the Chinese Communist Party made “building a strong maritime nation” a national goal, and the following year President Xi Jinping announced the Maritime Silk Road initiative, aimed at increasing China’s influence in maritime corridors around the world.

“Key aspects of the program include promoting state-owned shipping and logistics enterprises, investing in strategically located overseas ports and terminals, dominating the supply of cranes used in ports around the world, and promoting the government-sponsored logistics platform LOGINK,” the petition said. “As a result, Chinese companies – primarily state-owned enterprises – have become leaders in financing, building, operating and owning port terminals around the world.”

McCall said Tuesday that the United States produced fewer than 10 ocean-going ships last year, while China produced more than 1,000. “If we don’t take action, we will soon be dependent on China not only for the products its ships bring to our ports, but also the ships themselves,” he added.

Casey said China’s maritime practices also pose “serious” national security implications. “American shipyards and suppliers cannot replace ships lost in combat or meet our own needs, much less those of our friends and allies,” he said, citing the petition.

The petition outlines steps unions want USTR to take beyond simply eliminating Chinese practices, including a port levy on Chinese-built ships docking in U.S. ports and the creation of a “Shipbuilding Revitalization Fund” to lend a hand the domestic industry and its workers compete, in addition to “other measures to stimulate demand and construction capacity for commercial vessels built in the United States.”

The U.S. commercial shipbuilding and repair industry “can compete and thrive once the massive market distortions caused by the Chinese government are removed,” the petition states.

“We saw [People’s Republic of China] “create dependencies and vulnerabilities in many sectors, such as steel, aluminum, solar, batteries and critical minerals, harming American workers and businesses and creating real risks to our supply chains,” Tai said in a statement. “USTR and the Biden-Harris Administration are fighting every day to put working families first, rebuild American manufacturing and strengthen our supply chains.

“I look forward to reviewing this petition in detail,” Tai added.

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