U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently indicated that “we are moving positively” toward a deal on the USMCA trade agreement, with progress being made on better rules to enforce labor and environmental standards. While many politicians of both parties focus on these trade deals in Washington, it’s important to remember that trade impacts our shrinking middle class.
In my home state of Louisiana, many workers feel left behind by trade deals that don’t go far enough in protecting manufacturing jobs. As Democrats, we need to continue to be the pro-union party that champions the interests of American workers.
Unfairly priced and subsidized imports of fabricated structural steel from China, Canada, and Mexico have decimated the industry resulting in job losses in Louisiana and across the country. Along the Gulf Coast, unfairly traded Chinese imports have flooded the region, taking critical projects away from domestic fabricators, including refineries, oil platforms, and LNG facilities that use fabricated structural steel.
Nationwide, the fabricated structural steel industry directly employs 115,000 Americans and supports hundreds of thousands of additional jobs. In Louisiana alone, nearly 1,500 jobs in the fabricated steel industry hang in the balance because China and other foreign actors are not playing by the rules.
We need to level the playing field for fabricated steel workers by supporting pro-American worker trade cases that are pending before the International Trade Commission and Department of Commerce. Imposing anti-dumping and countervailing duties on subsidized and dumped products is permitted by both U.S. law and World Trade Organization rules that have been agreed upon by all our trading partners.
While we all support free trade, it must also be fair trade. In an ongoing anti-dumping investigation that is designed to ensure a level playing field for American fabricators and their workers, the Commerce Department has made a series of unusual preliminary determinations. The result was a finding that certain Chinese and Mexican fabricators, and all Canadian fabricators, are not dumping imports into our market, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The Democratic Party needs to stand strong with American manufacturing workers. This is not just about the steel fabricator jobs in my Louisiana that are at risk, but also about the indirect middle-class jobs that the fabricated steel industry supports.
After winning three Senate campaigns in Louisiana, I know that the forgotten men and women of America will support Democratic candidates nationwide who fight for workers and their families. A strong middle class will help us build a strong America.
When it comes to trade, Democrats need to take a tough line on countries that don’t play by the rules and champion American workers such as the 1,500 steel fabrication jobs in my home state. Let’s work together to strengthen our middle class in Louisiana by putting the interests of American workers first.
former U.S. senator