Barletta discusses trade legislation during Westmoreland stops
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta believes Pennsylvania’s steel producers will be better off with him in the Senate working to support President Trump’s trade policies.
The Hazleton Republican, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in November, made campaign stops in Murrysville and Export on Wednesday, including the new Export offices of Dura-Bond Industries.
The Export-based company has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum and has sought protections from the U.S. Commerce Department in the form of antidumping and countervailing duties.
On Wednesday, Dura-Bond CEO Wayne Norris and President Jason Norris came out in support of Barletta’s candidacy.
“We back you a thousand percent. We really do,” Wayne Norris said.
Dura-Bond is part of a coalition of U.S. steel pipe producers that has complained about the “glut” of foreign steel and the “dumping” of steel pipe by foreign companies, putting domestic producers at a competitive disadvantage.
The father and son executives said Barletta is the candidate most likely to continue the Trump trade policies that they believe are helping their industry.
“If you make the effort, there’s still a lot of (manufacturing) life in Pennsylvania — but we need a torchbearer, and he’s sitting right here,” Wayne Norris said.
A former mayor of Hazleton, Barletta was elected to Congress in 2010 as a Republican in a predominantly Democratic 11 th Congressional District. He was one of the first Republicans to support Trump for president in 2016.
While in Congress, Barletta said, he has championed measures to strengthen antidumping and countervailing duty laws and to streamline the process for U.S. companies to pursue unfair trade claims through U.S. Customs and Border Protection — including the ENFORCE Act of 2015.
Barletta said such legislation has benefited Dura-Bond and other steel companies in his eastern district. Dura-Bond has had a pipe coating facility in Steelton since 1993 and a pipe manufacturing plant, the former Bethlehem Steel, in Steelton since 2003.
Dura-Bond also makes and coats large-diameter steel pipe, mostly for the oil and gas industry, at facilities in Export, Duquesne and McKeesport.
“They were being affected by the dumping of Chinese steel,” Barletta said. “The Chinese were subsidizing their steel companies, and they were actually selling steel here in the United States cheaper than we could make it.”
Barletta said he withheld his vote from the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority law until he got assurances of support for the ENFORCE Act from House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“I said, ‘We have to give protections to the steel companies from the dumping of steel in Pennsylvania.’ We were able to write the language that actually would protect the companies by putting in the agreement a process whereby the cases would be heard in six months,” he said.
Asked whether the Republican Party is becoming the party of protectionism and tariffs, Barletta said, “I worry that the term free trade has now become free for the other countries and not so free for America. I believe that we want fair trade. I believe in free trade only if it’s fair to the American worker as well.”
Jason Norris said Trump’s record on trade so far has been mixed. The tariffs announced in March have helped level the playing field for domestic producers but also have made steel more expensive, he said.
Wayne Norris said he would prefer a world without tariffs where free markets prevailed.
“I think America can outwork and outproduce anybody,” he said, “but we don’t have the same protections as other countries.”
Although it has used foreign steel in the past, Dura-Bond currently buys most of its steel from domestic producers such as U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal, he said.
Dura-Bond is pursuing a countervailing duty complaint against four countries — China, India, South Korea and Turkey — and an antidumping duty complaint against six countries — Canada, China, Greece, India, South Korea and Turkey.
A hearing on the latter is scheduled before the International Trade Commission on Nov. 6. A final decision is expected by Jan. 3.
Duties are assessed by U.S. Customs in order to offset the negative effects of foreign government subsidies and dumping practices, according to the Commerce Department.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter @shuba_trib.