As President Trump made clear at the NATO summit with European leaders, “other countries trade barriers” have for years harmed U.S. businesses and hurt American workers while U.S troops have defended their borders. These same countries are now attacking criticizing the U.S. for levying its own tariffs to protect our own national defense.
As some of America’s largest aluminum producers, we strongly support Trump’s leadership on the steel and aluminum tariffs to protect our own national security. Since Trump announced the historic tariffs in March, the American public has been inundated with “sky is falling” rhetoric from entrenched special interests and prognosticators opposing the action.
Several months have now passed since the tariffs were implemented, however, and the reality is quite different from the sour predictions: The American economy is as strong as ever, with unemployment levels at or near all-time lows and capital investment increasing at double digit levels. In fact, manufacturing jobs have increased in each month since the tariffs went into place, including in steel- and aluminum-consuming industries like fabricated metal products, which added 7,000 jobs in June alone.
As a result of Trump’s bold leadership, Century Aluminum has begun investing over $115 million to increase production by 60 percent at the Hawesville, Ky., smelter, the last remaining U.S. smelter producing the high-purity aluminum needed by our military. In Marston, Mo., Magnitude 7 Metal’s aluminum smelter — a facility which had been previously forced to lay off nearly 900 workers when production ceased — is restarting production and creating hundreds of new American jobs in Missouri’s bootheel. As a direct result of Trump’s decisive actions, the U.S. primary aluminum industry will have increased its production by over 60 percent in 2018 alone.
Other parts of the U.S. aluminum industry are booming as well. For the first time in decades, two new aluminum rolling mills are being built in Kentucky. Rolling mills in Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee are expanding or restarting production. Aluminum extruders in Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin, Georgia, Ohio, and other states have announced expansions. Altogether, U.S. aluminum producers have announced the creation of over 2,300 direct production jobs and the investment of over $3 billion since the aluminum Section 232 investigation was launched.
This growth is just the beginning. Contrary to those “sky is falling” predictions that the tariffs would hurt downstream aluminum demand, orders for all major aluminum product categories have actually increased since the tariffs went into place. Aluminum extrusion demand is near all-time highs.
Before the president took this historic action, subsidized overproduction by state-owned producers in places like India, Russia, the Middle East, and China had forced smelters across the United States to close and cost over 8,000 American aluminum workers their jobs between 2003 and 2017. This ravaged small, rural communities in America’s heartland and threatened U.S. national security.
To put faces and names to the revitalization of America’s primary aluminum industry, one only has to hear the story of Dusty Stevens, a potline superintendent at Century’s Hawesville smelter. Dusty’s father and brother lost their jobs at the smelter due to foreign countries cheating the system. But Dusty recently stood with Trump as he signed the proclamation to impose tariffs, giving hope to the Stevens family. If you travel down Route 60 from Hawesville to Marston, Missouri, Derrick Cummins will explain how three generations of his family have jobs again after Trump’s tariffs allowed the Marston smelter to restart.
Unfortunately, the Stevens and Cummins families, and thousands of hardworking Americans like them, now face a new threat right here at home as special interests seek to restrict the president’s ability to negotiate better trade deals and protect our national security interests. Rather than attacking the president’s actions to follow through on his campaign promises to put American workers first and protect our national security, these special interests should be fighting the illegal retaliatory actions on American products imposed by the EU, China, and others. As U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and other experts have clearly shown, these foreign actions are illegal under World Trade Organization rules. These foreign governments should be called on to immediately comply with the very rules they claim to champion and immediately cease their illegal retaliatory tariffs.
Thanks to Trump’s bold actions, the future is bright for the American aluminum industry. American aluminum workers can feel confident that Trump will continue to stand up to countries that cheat as we work together to create more American jobs and revitalize the American aluminum industry.
Jesse Gary, executive vice president of Century Aluminum, and Bob Prusak, chief executive officer of Magnitude 7 Metals, serve as chairman and vice chairman of the American Primary Aluminum Association.