Steel pipe and tube CEOs urge Trump to move forward on import restrictions

Key Points
  • The request came in a letter to President Donald Trump sent Tuesday and signed by 23 pipe and tube chief executives.
  • They urge Trump to impose a combination of quotas and tariffs.
Getty Images

The chief executives of 23 pipe and tube manufacturers are urging President Donald Trump to move forward quickly on steel import restrictions, according to a letter obtained exclusively by CNBC.

The Department of Commerce has undertaken an investigation into whether foreign-made steel imports threaten U.S. security. Trump signed a memorandum in late April asking Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to prioritize the probe, which could result in higher tariffs for Chinese and other foreign steel firms, to the benefit of the U.S. steel industry.

According to the letter the executives sent to Trump on Tuesday, "Time is running out for the industry and its workers and we urge you take immediate action under the provisions of U.S. law that allow you to intervene to ensure that domestic producers can meet the national security needs of our great country by imposing a combination of quotas and tariffs."

The executives are members of the Committee on Pipe and Tube Imports (CPTI), a trade association.

The CEOs of ArcelorMittal, Bristol Metals and Boomerang Tube, who signed the letter, said the situation is not sustainable and warned it would only deteriorate further.

"Because the U.S. pipe and tube industry is the third-largest purchaser of flat-rolled steel ... reduced pipe and tube production will also greatly harm the U.S. flat-rolled industry," they said.

"Based on the amount of imports flooded into America now we will not be able to help rebuild Houston," Robert Griggs, president and CEO of Trinity Products, told CNBC.

"Not one U.S. pipe company will get a lick of work in rebuilding Houston. It will all go to China. The president needs to level the playing field and make it fair. The way it is now, American steel pipe companies will lose the opportunity to rebuild Houston," said Griggs, who also signed the letter.

During the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Trinity produced 10,000-15,000 tons of steel for infrastructure projects. Trinity Products makes the second-largest large diameter structural pipe, which is used in bridges, tunnels and other heavy construction projects

Executives enclosed a chart of carbon and alloy steel pipe and tube from July 2016 to 2017 showing a steady increase in foreign steel imports since the president announced the investigation.

The CEOs specifically cited China, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey and Vietnam as the major sources of foreign imports into the United States.

"The staggering levels of pipe and tube imports clearly indicates foreign competitors refuse to do so and that is why we support the remedial action," said Lee Searing, CEO of Searing Industries.

Barry Zekelman, executive chairman and CEO of Zekelman Industries, the largest independent steel tube manufacturer in North America, told CNBC: "The pipe and tube industry has been used as a conduit for foreign steel producers, primarily China, to circumvent duties and decimate our industry for many years. We are tired of playing 'whack-a-mole.' The future of our industry is at stake, we don't want handouts, just fair trade!"

The trade association represents companies that purchase steel from integrated manufacturers to make tubular products. It has 40 members that operate 123 facilities in 32 states and employ more than 40,000 workers.