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Nucor: Trump Steel Tariffs ‘Restoring Level Playing Field’

by Curtis Lanning

President Donald Trump’s controversial tariffs on steel and aluminum imports have their share of opponents, but steel-producer Nucor said the tariffs are “restoring a level playing field.”

North Carolina-based Nucor operates three steel mills in northeast Arkansas. Director of Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Katherine Miller said the company has been in Arkansas for 30 years.

When Trump announced the steel and aluminum import tariffs, some economists said the measure would do more harm than good, Reuters reported.

But Nucor said the Section 232 tariffs are having their desired impact.

“[They’re] taking artificially low-cost foreign imports out of the market and restoring a level playing field. The tariffs are sending a strong message to foreign countries to stop dumping steel in our market and change their trade practices,” Miller said.

Miller said unfairly traded steel imports have been a “huge challenge” for the industry, especially after the recession following 2009.

“Imports grabbed a record 29 percent of market share in 2015 and have remained at persistently high levels for years,” Miller said.

She explained foreign companies subsidize their steel industries, which violates international trade rules. Those subsidies have resulted in 700 million tons of excess steel around the world, half of which is in China, according to Miller.

“Increased demand and removing dumped imports from the U.S. market are restoring strong capacity utilization rates at U.S. mills,” Miller said.

Nucor’s steel shipments are forecast to reach a record high in 2018, and utilization rates are up across the company’s steel mills.

The company’s three mills in northeast Arkansas are among Nucor’s facilities seeing higher utilization rates.

Blytheville got the first facility in 1987 after Nucor and joint venture partner Yamato Kogyo Company Ltd. of Japan constructed a beam mill there, according to Miller. The mill produces wide-flange steel beams, sheet piling, H-piling, standard I-beams and heavy structural steel products for fabricators, manufacturers, construction companies and steel service centers. Miller also said the beams from the mill were used in the construction of the new World Trade Center.

In 1992, the company started operating Nucor Steel Arkansas in Hickman. The facility there is a steel sheet mill. According to Miller, the facility produces cold-rolled, hot rolled and coated steel sheet steel. These are typically used in truck frames, pipe and tubular, agriculture equipment, water heaters, railcar components, metal buildings and more.

Nucor Castrip was built in 2009. Miller said Nucor pioneered the Castrip process, which allows steel makers to produce thin flat-rolled products in far fewer process steps. This saves money on operating expenses and capital outlay.

In total, Nucor’s three Arkansas mills employ more than 1,600 people. It employs 900 in Blytheville, 70 at the Castrip facility and 640 in Hickman, according to Miller.

The stronger market, Miller said, has led to investments at the Hickman facility.

“We are investing nearly $500 million to build an automotive quality galvanizing line and specialty cold rolling complex to produce ultra-high strength steel for the automotive market,” Miller said. “We have always maintained that we can compete with any steelmaker in the world if we have a level playing field. Maintaining a level playing field will result in a strong U.S. steel industry that will be able to invest and grow.”

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