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Casey joins US Steelworkers union in call for investigation into China shipbuilding practices

Credit: Jemal Countess/Getty Images for JDRF

Kim Lyons, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
March 12, 2024

The United Steelworkers union on Tuesday filed a petition with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, alleging China has used “protectionist and predatory policies” in global shipbuilding, calling on President Joe Biden to conduct a trade investigation into China’s practices in the maritime, logistics and shipbuilding sectors.

China “has been relentless in their efforts to use commercial shipbuilding to dominate the full spectrum of global trade, choking out competitors, and it’s time for us to fight back,” David McCall, USW president, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “The U.S. was once a leader in this industry. But as our shipbuilding industry collapsed, our nation lost more than 70,000 shipbuilding jobs, not to mention all the secondary indirect jobs as well.”

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

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

“China has cheated on global trade practices in an attempt to establish dominance in the maritime industry, the logistics industry and the shipbuilding industry as well in all the supply chains connected to those industries,” Casey said. “To protect the American steel industry, our workers and our jobs we’ve got to crack down hard — not just not just give speeches and have rhetoric — we need to crack down hard on this regime and hold the regime and in particular President Xi accountable for what his regime does.”

American-made steel and steelworkers’ jobs moved to the forefront of political issues late last year, when Casey and other Pennsylvania Democratic lawmakers, along with the USW, criticized the proposed sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel of Japan for more than $14 billion.

According to the petition filed Tuesday with the USTR, in 2012, the Communist Party of China elevated the “construction of a strong maritime country” as a national goal, and the following year President Xi Jinping announced a Maritime Silk Road initiative, aimed at increasing China’s influence over maritime corridors across the globe.

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

Last year, McCall said Tuesday, the U.S. produced fewer than 10 oceanic vessels, while China produced more than 1,000. “If we do not act, we will soon be dependent on China, not only for the products their vessels bring to our ports, but also for the ships themselves,” he added.

Casey said China’s practices in the maritime sector also posed “grave” national security implications. “U.S. shipyards and suppliers do not have the capability to replace ships lost in combat, or the ability to supply our own needs, much less those of our friends and allies,” he said, citing the petition.

The petition outlines steps the unions want the USTR to take beyond simply eliminating China’s practices, including a port fee on Chinese-built ships that dock at U.S. ports, and the creation of a “Shipbuilding Revitalization Fund” to help the domestic industry and its workers compete, in addition to “other measures to stimulate demand for, and the capacity to construct, commercial vessels built in the United States.”

The commercial shipbuilding and repair industry in the U.S. “can compete and grow in the massive market distortions that the Government of China has created are remedied,” the petition states.

“We have seen the [People’s Republic of China] create dependencies and vulnerabilities in multiple sectors, like steel, aluminum, solar, batteries, and critical minerals, harming American workers and businesses and creating real risks for 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.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Pennsylvania Capital-Star under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.