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Biden vows support for steel industry during Pittsburgh visit

President Joe Biden speaks at the United Steelworkers Headquarters in Pittsburgh, Wednesday. Associated Press

PITTSBURGH — When President Joe Biden visited the headquarters of the United Steelworkers union in downtown Pittsburgh on Wednesday afternoon he touted his administration’s work in Butler, also.

“Last year my administrative announced the largest investment ever in clean manufacturing in all of American history.” Biden said. “$1.5 billion dollars in six clean steel projects across America. It created thousands of union jobs including Butler Works in Lyndora, Pennsylvania.”

Biden’s message was that his vision for the economy is better than his political opponents, especially when it comes to jobs.

Earlier this month, local officials celebrated a change to a proposed U.S. Department of Energy rule that should allow Cleveland-Cliffs Butler Works plant to continue making grain-oriented electrical steel for the next five years. Before the change, company and union officials argued the new efficiency standards would have risked eliminating 1,300 jobs at the plant.

Biden’s visit to Pittsburgh was the middle stop of his three-day tour across the state. During his speech to steel workers, Biden gave his vision on the economy, focusing on unions and manufacturing while taking aim at China’s subsidized steel market practices. The Scranton native also promoted his administration’s accomplishments, saying Pennsylvania’s record-low unemployment was a result of his policies.

He also made sure to include a couple of jabs at his probable November political opponent, former President Donald Trump.

“My predecessor, who is busy right now,” the president said, referring to Trump’s New York trial, “(during his time) Pennsylvania lost 275,000 jobs. Look at the facts, on my watch, unemployment hasn’t been this low for this long in 50 years.”

Biden reiterated his disapproval of the sale of U.S. Steel to Nippon Steel, Japan’s largest steelmaker.

On Friday, 98% U.S. Steel shareholders voted to approve the $14.9 billion sale to Nippon Steel. Both Biden and Trump have spoken out against the sale of U.S. Steel, which still needs to clear regulatory hurdles.

Biden promised the crowd of union workers to keep the steel company under American ownership.

“U.S. Steel has been an iconic American company for more than a century and it should remain totally American,” Biden said to a cheering crowd. “American owned, American operated by American steel unions, the best in the world — and that’s going to happen I promise you.”

Biden, who spoke for around 20 minutes, almost immediately took direct aim at the Chinese steel market, claiming the world’s largest steel manufactures is “cheating,” citing China’s willingness to subsidize steel and aluminum, which allows the country to sell the metals for a loss.

As Biden stated in his speech in Scranton on Tuesday, Biden proposed harsh repercussions if he found that China is manipulating the global steel market.

“My U.S. trade representatives are investigating trade practices by the Chinese government regarding steel and aluminum,” Biden said. “If that investigation confirms these anti-competitive trade practices, then I’ll call them out and consider tripling the tariff rates.”

White House officials said China accounts for 50% of global steel production and its export prices are 40% lower than average. The current average tariff on steel and aluminum products is 7.5%. Under Biden’s proposal, the tariff would be raised to 25%.

Biden also used Wednesday’s speech as a reminder about the Butch Lewis Act, which passed in 2022 and provided a bailout to fund multi-employer pension plans for 30 years. The bill restored pensions to their full amount and increases the national pension insurance cap.

“We got it done and protected the pensions of more than 120,000 steelworkers,” Biden said.

This is likely not the last time Biden will visit Pennsylvania. He will make his seventh stop in the Keystone State this year when he visits Philadelphia on Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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