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Trump and Manufacturing
SMS JSW billet caster SMS ag
Raw steel is produced in basic oxygen furnaces and electric arc furnaces, and cast into semi-finished products, such as billets (shown here), blooms, and slabs. After rolling to final dimensions, steel billets are used to form a range of commodity-grade and specialty bar, rod, and wire products.

Steelmaker That Praised Trump Tariffs Now Suing US for Relief

The move comes after CEO John Hritz credited the Trump administration’s tariffs for helping pave the way for JSW’s $1 billion U.S. expansion plan in October.

Less than a year after JSW Steel (USA) Inc. lauded U.S. metal tariffs for aiding the steel industry, the company is suing because it’s not exempted from the levies.

The producer says the Commerce Department wrongfully denied waivers for steel-slab raw materials, forcing the steelmaker to pay tens of millions of dollars in tariffs. It relies on imports of these materials from India and Mexico because the U.S. doesn’t produce steel slab of sufficient quality or quantity, JSW said in its complaint.

The move comes after Chief Executive Officer John Hritz  credited the Trump administration’s tariffs for helping pave the way for JSW’s $1 billion U.S. expansion plan in October, which would triple output at its Texas plant and add a facility in Ohio. Hritz said at the time that the administration had helped stem a “reprehensible deterioration” in the industry, and that the tariffs gave the company a cushion to make major investments.

‘Bite the Bullet’

“The point why these guys weren’t given exemptions is to encourage investment in the U.S., and that’s why JSW is building a brand new electric-arc furnace, basically,” Andrew Cosgrove, senior industry analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence, said in a phone interview. “They’re just going to have to bite the bullet in the interim by importing slabs and paying the tariff.”

A spokesman for JSW didn’t return requests for comment. Kevin Manning, a Commerce Department spokesman, declined to comment.

JSW, a unit of India’s JSW Steel Ltd., says it manufactures “steel plate and pipe for use in critical infrastructure projects” including natural gas and oil pipelines. The Commerce Department is authorized to grant exclusions from tariffs to U.S. businesses that rely on types of steel that aren’t produced in the U.S. in sufficient quantities.

Total U.S. steel slab consumption is about 8.2 million tons, of which 7.2 million was imported from abroad, meaning the domestic industry is 88% dependent on foreign metal, according to Cosgrove.

JSW broke ground for a new electric arc furnace in Baytown, Texas, the company announced in October 2018, with the company thanking “policies in Washington” as it set out to hire 1,000 new workers and invest as much as $1 billion to expand its U.S. operations.

By Joe Deaux

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