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U.S. Steel Chief Calls For Enforcement Of Trade Rules

October 20, 2010
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

U.S. Steel chairman and CEO John P. Surma said Tuesday that the United States needs to match other countries in developing a pro-manufacturing policy that includes trade, tax, environmental and education components.

In a speech to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh, Mr. Surma cited Germany as an example of a country that has a well-conceived national policy that promotes manufacturing, including an emphasis on engineering education. He said manufacturing accounts for 20 percent of the economy in Germany, which came out of the recent recession faster than the United States.

"We don't think that's a coincidence," Mr. Surma said. Manufacturing accounted for more than 25 percent of U.S. gross domestic product at the end of World War II and was 21 percent of the economy in 1980, he said. Today, the figure is 11 percent, he said. Since 1999, 40,000 U.S. manufacturing plants have closed and more than 4 million manufacturing jobs were lost, he said.

"There is a crisis in U.S. manufacturing ... that transcends the current global economic downturn, and it may affect how quickly we fully recover. The crisis is real. It's not cyclical. It's not imagined, and it's not going away on its own," Mr. Surma told the Duquesne Club audience.

Mr. Surma called for stronger enforcement of trading rules, particularly against the Chinese. He also said Congress should refrain from enacting legislation that imposes stricter environmental controls on U.S. manufacturers than their foreign competitors face.

Cap-and-trade legislation that stalled in Congress was an example of a proposal that would have increased U.S. unemployment as well as global pollution by shifting jobs from cleaner U.S. manufacturers to overseas plants that emit more carbon dioxide, Mr. Surma said.

"Who wants to vote for that?" he asked.

More people are aware of the crisis in U.S. manufacturing and are aware of the threat it poses to our way of life, he said.

Mr. Surma discounted the notion of relying on a services-based economy, citing the adage of former U.S. Steel chairman David Roderick that countries don't create wealth by doing each other's laundry.
"I think a post-manufacturing economy is poverty. It's not a good thing," he said.

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