Government

Trade Rep Pursues Action on Chinese Aluminum

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Four aluminum extruders in Mahoning and Columbiana counties would benefit from a World Trade Organization case launched against China to address aluminum overcapacity.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman launched the WTO case Thursday at the urging of U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman. According to a joint news release from the senators, 15,000 U.S. aluminum production workers have lost their jobs over the last decade, including 1,500 in 2016.

Ohio beneficiaries of a successful WTO case would include Aerolite Extrusion Co. and General Extrusions Inc. , both in Boardman, Astro Shapes Inc. in Struthers and Pennex Aluminum Co. in Leetonia.

“This is the 16th time we have taken action against China at the WTO, and we’ve won every challenge that has been decided,” Froman said Thursday in a statement.

China now produces more than half of the world’s aluminum, up from 2007 when it accounted for just 30% of worldwide production, the senators said in their October 2016 letter to Froman.

China has subsidized its aluminum sector, giving it unfair advantage in the market and each year since 2008, its industry has increased its capacity and production beyond its domestic market demands, driving global aluminum prices down 35%. Those price decreases led U.S. producers to take nine aluminum smelters offline since 2008, leaving just five operating in the United States and causing massive layoffs, the senators said.

“When China drives down aluminum costs by cheating, Ohio workers and manufacturers pay the price,” Brown, D-Ohio, said.

“Ohio aluminum producers can compete and win when they have a level playing field,” Portman, R-Ohio, said.

U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, and Mike Kelly R-3 Pennsylvania, also hailed the trade enforcement action.

“The U.S. aluminum industry is a vital component of our domestic economy; therefore, we must ensure that an oversupply of Chinese aluminum does not negatively affect it,” said Johnson, co-chairman of the Congressional Aluminum Caucus. “I look forward to working with the [trade representative] as this complaint process moves forward.”

“We must hold China accountable,” said Kelly, a member of the aluminum caucus.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.