American manufacturers can compete with any company in the world, but they can't compete against countries that subsidize their competition,
leaders of the region's largest steel companies and the Steelworkers union said Tuesday at a town hall meeting.
"It's immoral to ask us to compete against countries and an environment ... where they drive to the lowest common denominator," USW President Leo Gerard told more than 900 people who gathered at the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh's Strip District for the "Keep it Made in America" meeting.
U.S. Steel Corp. and Allegheny Technologies Inc., both of which were represented on the panel discussion about manufacturing in America, "would be competitive with any company in the world," Gerard said. But, they can't compete when foreign countries subsidize companies and place no standards on health and safety rules or environmental regulations, Gerard said.
Pennsylvania has lost nearly 202,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a national organization of unions and corporations seeking fair trade. Of that number, about 78,200 manufacturing jobs in the state have been lost to unfair trade from China, the alliance said.
On a national basis, the U.S. has lost 17 percent of its manufacturing work force in this decade, which panelists pointed out are good-paying jobs that support a decent standard of living.
For a host of national security reasons, the specialty steel industry is not an industry that the U.S. can afford to lose to foreign competition, said L. Patrick Hassey, chief executive of specialty steelmaker Allegheny Technologies.
"You don't want to be calling China if you want to build a missile. You don't want to be calling Russia if you want titanium," Hassey said.
Although there is much discussion about the U.S. competing in a global economy, Hassey said, it's important to realize that the nation's industry must have "fair and free trade."
While the U.S. steel industry has recovered somewhat in the past five years, "we can't continue to grow if we don't have adequate support of our trade laws," U.S. Steel Chief Operating Officer John Goodish said.