US Steel cites Trump in resuming construction project

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama (AP) – United States (US) Steel Corp will restart construction on an idled manufacturing facility in Alabama, and it gave some of the credit to US President Donald Trump’s trade policies in an announcement on Monday.

Trump’s “strong trade actions” are partly responsible for the resumption of work on an advanced plant near Birmingham, the Pittsburgh-based company said in a statement.

The administration’s tariffs have raised prices on imported steel and aluminium.

The manufacturer also cited improving market conditions, union support and government incentives for the decision.

Work will resume immediately, the company said, and the facility will have an annual capacity of 1.6 million tonnes.

This April 26, 2010 file photo shows the United States Steel logo outside the headquarters building in downtown Pittsburgh. – AP

US Steel said it also will update other equipment and plans to spend about USD215 million, adding about 150 full-time workers. The furnace is expected to begin producing steel in late 2020.

The 16,000-member United Steelworkers praised the decision to resume work, which followed an agreement with the union reached last fall.

“This decision paves the way for a solid future in continuing to make steel in Alabama and the Birmingham region,” President of the international union Leo W Gerard said in a statement.

US Steel shut down its decades-old blast furnace at Fairfield Works in 2015, idling about 1,100 employees, and said it would replace the operation with an electric furnace.

The company then blamed conditions in the steel, oil and gas industries as it suspended work in December 2015 on an electric arc furnace at its mill in Fairfield, located just west of Birmingham. The project stalled until the announcement on Monday.

US Steel and other large US steelmakers have benefitted since the Trump administration began imposing 25 per cent tariffs on imported steel in March of last year, largely because they were able to raise domestic steel prices.

Other countries said the taxes break global trade rules, and some have imposed tariffs of their own.

Last year, shipments from US steel producers increased five per cent, and steel imports are down 37 per cent since the tariffs took effect, said Lisa Harrison, spokeswoman for the American Iron and Steel Institute, a trade association.