Unfair trade practices by other countries have been a plague on the U.S. steel industry for decades. RG Steel's bankruptcy filing last month should raise the question of whether foreign steelmakers still are being permitted to destroy American jobs and critical manufacturers.
The answer may be yes.
And it appears President Barack Obama is reluctant to crack down on some countries guilty of unfair trade practices.
In March, the U.S. Commerce Department reported China was dumping steel vehicle wheels in this country. That is, with help from government subsides, Chinese firms were selling steel wheels here at less than the cost of production. The market is a big one; last year, China sold $84 million worth of steel wheels here.
Just weeks later, the U.S. International Trade Commission refused to recommend any duties be charged on imports of Chinese wheels, to counteract dumping.
ITC officials explained they had decided no U.S. industry was "materially injured or threatened with injury" because of Chinese dumping. That came even though the issue was raised by two American companies maintaining they are being harmed by the unfair trade practice.
Occasionally, the Obama administration does impose duties to counteract dumping. Both India and Vietnam have been targets, because of steel pipe imports.
As the Chinese situation indicates, however, the government remains reluctant to engage in a comprehensive crackdown on dumping, despite a plea by the Congressional Steel Caucus that more be done to safeguard U.S. companies.
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., and vice chairman of the Steel Caucus, warned that "more must be done to ensure that American steelworkers can compete against such (Chinese) government influence."
That and other warnings seem to have fallen on deaf ears in the White House.
Even as Obama claims to be standing up for American workers but fails them on dumping, his opponent in the November presidential election wants to take action.
Earlier this year, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney noted that several years ago, a steel mill his firm owned had to close because of unfair trade practices by foreign companies.
About 40 mills were shuttered for the same reason, he added.
"I understand what happens when China cheats, or when others cheat and dump products in this country," Romney told an interviewer. He added he wants to "crack down on cheaters."
Clearly, to save American jobs, that needs to be done.