Trump packs trade team with veterans of steel wars with China

Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:15am EST
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By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump is stacking his trade transition team with veterans of the U.S. steel industry's battles with China, signaling a potentially more aggressive approach to U.S. complaints of unfair Chinese subsidies for its exports and barriers to imports.

Led by Wilbur Ross, a billionaire steel investor and Trump's nominee for commerce secretary, Dan DiMicco, the former CEO of steelmaker Nucor Corp, and three veteran steel trade lawyers, the team is expected to help shift the U.S. trade focus more heavily toward enforcement actions aimed at bringing down a chronic U.S. trade deficit, Washington trade experts said.

Based on their past efforts, this could include more challenges to China's trade practices through the World Trade Organization and more U.S. government-initiated anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases against a wider range of Chinese products. The latter would be argued before the U.S. International Trade Commission - a forum where the steel industry has had considerable success.

Ross, DiMicco and other leaders of Big Steel have been on the front-line in U.S. trade battles against the world's export superpower.

Hit by a flood of cheap imports from China and other countries, the U.S. steel industry has brought 16 new cases in the past three years, seeking punitive duties from the Commerce Department to combat below-cost dumping and unfair subsidies that slashed prices of various steel products to historic lows last year, causing layoffs at U.S. steel mills. (See graphic

Some of these cases have resulted in massive penalties against Chinese imports, including duties of more than 500 percent on Chinese cold-rolled steel used in autos and appliances.

Lawyers Robert Lighthizer and Jeffrey Gerrish have represented United States Steel and Stephen Vaughn has represented AK Steel in these cases. The three are also part of Trump's trade team.

Lighthizer, Gerrish, Vaughn, Ross and DiMicco either declined to comment for this story or did not respond to Reuters' requests for interviews.   Continued...

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson