Guest column/Standing up for steel jobs is right thing to do

For far too long, Chinese cheating has shuttered steel plants across Ohio and put Americans out of work, while steelworkers who remain on the job have been forced to live in fear that they will be next.

We’re under attack. And it’s past-time we fought back. That’s why I have been calling on President Donald Trump to keep his promise to Ohioans and stand up for steel jobs since he was elected — and I’m glad he did.

The recent action is long-overdue and welcome news. These tariffs finally send a clear message to our trading partners that we will not allow them to cheat Americans out of their jobs.

There’s no question that China is the biggest offender of flooding the global market with illegally subsidized steel. We also know that China’s actions have infected the global market, and Chinese steel comes into the U.S. from other countries. So the Trump administration was right to take a broad approach, while at the same time exempting Canada and Mexico and creating a process for our other allies to make their own cases for exemption through the United States trade representative.

There is also more work to do. These tariffs do not cover downstream electrical steel products, critical to AK Steel in Ohio, and I will continue working with Sen. Rob Portman to push for action to protect those Ohio jobs. We know China and other countries will continue to cheat despite the president’s tough action, and I’m committed to this fight for the long-term.

Concerns have been raised about the cost of this action. But far too little attention has been paid to the cost of doing nothing.

Ohioans know all too well what steel layoffs have cost the families and communities who depend on them. And if we fail to stand up for steel jobs today, China will come after other jobs down the supply chain next.

We have tried to address China’s cheating in other ways. Our steel industry has brought case after case before the Commerce Department and the International Trade Commission. I’ve testified on behalf of American steel companies in many of those cases. And I worked with Portman on my bipartisan Leveling the Playing Field Act that President Barack Obama signed in 2015, which restored strength to our trade remedy laws and led to key wins for Ohio steel companies in major trade cases last year.

But every time we win a case, the cheaters find a new way to cheat. So we must be willing to use every tool we have to enforce the rules.

Trade enforcement is not the same as a trade war. No one wins a trade war, and that’s not what we want. But when American jobs are under attack, our trading partners must know that we will fight back.

These tariffs are a justified reaction to the severe threat facing Ohio’s steel communities.

Some call these tariffs extreme, but that’s only because Washington has failed to take meaningful action to stand up for American jobs for far too long. Tariffs are part of standard economic practice — we’ve used them in the U.S. throughout our history, under presidents of both parties. And other countries currently impose them on American goods.

We’ve seen what we can achieve for Ohio businesses and Ohio workers when we enforce our trade rules. Last month, the Trump administration followed calls from myself and Portman to stand up for the 3,500 Ohio workers at Whirlpool whose jobs have been threatened by cheap imports from countries like China, Mexico and Korea.

Because of that victory, Whirlpool is now able to add 200 new jobs at its plant in Clyde.

We have made important progress, from pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to standing up for Whirlpool workers and steel jobs. And we have more work left to do. I will continue working with this administration to hold President Trump to the promises he made to Ohioans and help rewrite a trade agenda that puts American workers first.

(Brown is Ohio’s senior senator.)