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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

US has been in trade war for 30 years without engaging. Only one side has been fighting and taking home the spoils. All that's happening now is someone is speaking up for the American people whose political class has sold them out-Vox interview with former Trump trade advisor, 3/15/18

Lobbyists spent $5.8 million per US lawmaker in 2016, up from only $113,700 per lawmaker in 1986. "Tom Donohue Warns President Trump Against Trade Action Toward China," tcth









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3/15/18, "“We’ve been in a trade war for 30 years": a former Trump trade adviser explains the case for tariffs," Vox.com, Emily Stewart

"If you believe the US has been in a perpetual trade war for decades, Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs make sense."

"For Dan DiMicco, the former steel executive and trade adviser to Trump who reportedly nearly became United States trade representative, there’s no risk of the president’s recently announced tariffs sparking a trade war--we’ve already been in one for years. 

The only difference now, he said, is that we’re deciding to fight back. “Don’t tell me about starting a trade war,” he said. “The Chinese have been perpetrating a trade war on us since 1995.”

President Donald Trump’s proposal to impose a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and 10 percent tariff on imports of aluminum has been met with opposition from the business community, global economies, and lawmakers on the left and, even more so, the right. 

But DiMicco is among those who thinks they’re putting the US back on the right track.

I spoke with DiMicco, the former chair and CEO of steel company Nucor who has spent most of his career in steel and manufacturing, about the case for President Trump’s tariffs, which so many others have maligned. DiMicco served as a senior trade and economic adviser on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and led the US trade representative transition team.

The president reportedly bypassed him for the trade representative job, which ultimately went to Robert Lighthizer, but DiMicco remains in the White House’s orbit. The president in December named him to the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, and he is in contact with Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. (He says he does not speak regularly with Trump.)

DiMicco, much like the president, has been for years advocating for a trade crackdown and is especially vocal about China. He laid out the argument for Trump’s latest trade aggressions and said those who are worried about their ramifications are missing the point. “We’ve been in a trade war for 30 years, he said.

We were under attack; US manufacturing has reached a critical stage from 2000 to today because of what China’s done.”"

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From Vox:

"This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity." 

"Emily Stewart 

So, setting out, you advised the Trump campaign on trade and headed the US trade representative’s transition team. You think these tariffs are a good idea. What’s the case for the tariffs, and more specifically, what’s the case for them as a national security measure?

Dan DiMicco 

The case is national defense, national security, and that’s a significant part of the 232. [The Trump administration has invoked section 232 of the US Trade Expansion Act of 1962 in its tariff proposal; the act states that if the US doesn’t have reliable access to materials required for national security, the country has license to set up big trade barriers in order to boost domestic production of them.]

The way that it impacts national security is that during the campaign and the transition, we worked on getting the message out that there is no national security if you don’t have economic security, and there is no national security if you lose your basic manufacturing industries. You can’t remain a world leader and be a shining light for the world to deal with whatever adversaries need to be dealt with if you don’t have a strong national defense, which is promoted by strong economic security.

The steel industry is an example, and the aluminum industry, they are very capital-intensive industries. They have to be able to earn well in excess of their cost of capital, probably a multiple or more over the business cycle in order for them to be able to do the massive reinvestment they need to modernize, take on new technologies, expand, and take care of their customers’ requirements.

Over the last nine years, the cost of capital to the industry — and it varies dependent upon the players — has probably been somewhere around 10 to 12 percent. The return on invested capital, which you need to have to exceed the cost of capital so you can reinvest, thrive, and be around for 10, 20, 30 years, was close to zero or negative during that entire period. Even the best steel companies in this country, whose cost of capital could be closer to nine or 10 percent, earned a fraction of the cost of capital, somewhere around 40 to 50 of it. You can’t sustain an industry when you are having that kind of performance based upon whatever the factors are.

In this case, the manufacturers are not lacking productivity, because the steel industry is one of the most efficient in the United States and one of the most efficient in the world, the most productive in the world — Nucor in particular, but also others, like Steel Dynamics and US Steel and AK Steel. They’ve all improved their productivity over the past several years, somewhere around 5.5 percent.

So it’s an issue of steel coming in, the global overcapacity created by China, and the destruction it’s creating in our basic industries. In this case, the 232 is focusing on aluminum and steel. But as you should know, the administration and, in particular, Wilbur [Ross] talked about the fact that there are probably going to be seven to nine industries they’re going to look to investigate to see if 232 action is appropriate, things like semiconductors, aerospace, and other things are being looked at and will be looked at.

There’s going to be a 301 filing on intellectual property theft by the Chinese. [Section 301 of the US Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to impose import tariffs to sanction unfair trade practices.] 

The case for this is much broader. It’s a major part of Trump’s trade reform agenda, which is part of his four-point economic strategy: tax reform, trade reform, regulatory reform, and energy reform. The case is that you’ve got to stop the trade cheating in order to have an industry that can earn its cost of capital in excess of it so that it can reinvest it here when we need that. And it’s not just for tanks and ships and rail cars, things associated with the military.

You’ve got to have a strong infrastructure to support the military effort at ports and railyards and in trucking and roadways. And so the industry has a national defense and national security impact greater than people have alluded to, those people who are saying the sky is going to fall. 

Emily Stewart

So you bring up China, but China isn’t where we get most of our steel from, we get a lot more from Canada, Brazil, Europe. 

Dan DiMicco

That’s a misconception. The global steel excess capacity is related to one country---China, China, China. Because somebody says we only get 2 percent of our steel from China doesn’t mean that China is not having a significantly greater, 10 times greater, impact on the steel situation in this country and other countries around the world, not just the United States.

Let me give you examples. First off, the Chinese have become very adept at transshipping and circumventing so that the products come in mismarked, misidentified. They’re steel, but they come in mislabeled, they come in through surrogate countries like Vietnam and South Korea. They come in the form of the steel that the steel mills make, and they also come in the form of steel products. The impact is much greater than the 2 percent indicated.

In addition, the overcapacity is felt in this country because there’s all this excess capacity. It doesn’t all have to come directly here to have a major negative impact.

If China sends steel to South Korea or to Brazil or the European Union with that excess capacity, then the folks that were supplying those customers in Korea and the EU and in South America, they have to find a home for their steel, so they start looking around for the most open market in the world, and guess who it is? It’s the United States.

So then we start seeing countries being forced to push their exports into our market because of what China’s doing globally. They do the same things globally that they do here, they circumvent, they transship. They’ve got the game down, they put stuff in containers and mismark them. Our customs people are getting much better at catching this stuff, but they have limited resources, and they’ve got to be increased.

The 2 percent number is fake news, it’s not representative of the true impact. It’s millions of tons more coming directly from China or because of the effect of China on other countries to move their steel products to their customers.

Here’s living proof: [On Tuesday], there was an announcement that Eurofer, the European Steel Association, made a demand of the EU that they put quotas on all countries sending steel into the EU
because they fear that the steel that was coming here is now going to be forced to come into their market, which is exactly the reverse of what’s been happening to us. [Eurofer president Geert Van Poelvoorde at a press conference on Tuesday called for a focus on steel overcapacity instead instead of the US deploying steel tariffs and warned that American tariffs could cause increased steel imports to Europe because of trade deflection.] 

Eurofer and the EU are making our case for us about global overcapacity and the implications of what China does to force countries to ship their products other places as well. The EU isn’t just concerned about China but also the circumvention and the effects of other countries having to move their products other places because they can’t compete with China where they were sending their product before.

That [2 percent] number everybody quotes is basically a number that people have manipulated to exaggerate a situation that doesn’t exist. China is the culprit, and the rest of the world in their action or lack of action is complacent and enabling China in its overcapacity. 

Emily Stewart

Okay, so these tariffs are meant to benefit American steel and aluminum producers, but what about companies that use a lot of steel and aluminum, like car manufacturers, and those workers? 

Dan DiMicco

Good question, and another one of those Chicken Little, the sky is falling things. Not that there’s not going to be some impact, but it will be relatively small.

Now let me explain why I say that. In 2002, we had a thing from the Bush administration called a 201 tariff. [Bush used Section 201 of the Trade Expansion Act, which allows the president to investigate whether an industry needs safeguard protections from imports, to impose tariffs of 8 to 30 percent on imported steel. The tariffs took effect in March 2002 and were lifted in December 2003.] It was applied to all countries. It was 30 percent. There were all kinds of claims made about how it was going to end the world.

The International Trade Commission conducted a study after the 201 was removed, which was done 18 months after it was put in place. The study came out conclusively and said two main things. One, there were no net job losses in the United States because of the 201. Two, the GDP saw no impact — no impact means essentially no impact, it may have been .0001 percent. But those are the two major findings on a tariff that was 15 percent greater than what we’ve got.

History teaches us, recent history, that this Chicken Little analysis that’s out there by the folks opposing this is way overexaggerated. 

I think you’ve seen on Tuesday where [Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] has come out and started to attack China for their global overcapacity. That is in part due to the fact that our government is saying, “Listen, you all need to stop talking about doing something about China’s overcapacity, and you need to start doing something, and if you don’t want us to be hitting you with 25 percent tariffs, you have to join our fight, and you have to make sure you don’t allow circumvention and trans-shipment through our country in our market.”

What Trump is doing with our allies is getting them to finally stop talking about doing something and do something. For 15 years, the OECD and the global steel industry has put warnings out and said, “Hey, this has got to stop.” But nothing ever gets done — the Chinese make promises, and they don’t do anything. They just keep getting more and more and more capacity. President Trump’s just saying enough is enough. 

This is just part of his overall strategy on trade reform. It’s the beginning, you saw it with the aluminum tariffs and the solar panel tariffs, the 201 on solar panels. You already see that the companies that were negatively impacted are going to grow and expand again in this country. Because of the support by the president of steel and aluminum, Century Aluminum is restarting and expanding its operations, spending well over $100 million.

Granite City’s US Steel operation is being restarted. Nucor is building three new steel mills, one in Florida, one in Kansas City, and one in Illinois. [That’s] based upon the fact of this action of the president, which is not time-limited — he has told people straight out there are no limits on how long this is going to last. These are going to be around as long as necessary. 

Emily Stewart

So on the Bush tariffs, there are varying studies out there that say different things, that on net more jobs were lost, or that there wasn’t a significant amount of jobs lost or gained. How do you explain that? 

Dan DiMicco 

That’s wrong. Go to the ITC study, it’s very clearly stated on what the case is. There was originally a report that came out from a consuming industry trade group called CITAC [the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition]. CITAC reported that there were over 220,000 job losses because of the tariffs. That was later completely debunked by many of their own peers, let alone by the ITC and the US steel industry, because the time period that they chose to look at job losses was the time period prior to the tariffs coming into place.

That’s why the tariffs were put in place to begin with, because of the massive job losses, 38 steel companies going bankrupt and tens of thousands of workers being put off, and the multiplier effect to the negative of four or five times in the industries that supported those steel operations. That was phony news, that was fake news, and their own peers called them out on that. 

Emily Stewart

So let’s say, okay, these tariffs in and of themselves aren’t going to be a big deal to the economy, they’re not going to add or wipe out a lot of jobs on net. But what about the risk of a trade war? What if we do this, and Europe retaliates, and it escalates? 

Dan DiMicco 

We’ve been in a trade war for 30 years. We were under attack, US manufacturing has reached a critical stage from 2000 and today because of what China’s done. So, my answer to that is don’t tell me about starting a trade war, the Chinese have been perpetrating a trade war on us since 1995 when they reevaluated their currency and dropped it by 80 percent to gain a major currency advantage in devaluing their currency to promote their own domestic growth and own domestic manufacturing growth.

Then they said the steel industry is going to be strategic, we [China] need it to be a world power, so they made it strategic and 95 percent of it’s state-owned, and they built 900 million tons of capacity when they had only about 100 to 150 million tons before they started that.

They get that the steel industry is strategic to their economic strength and to their national defense and their ability in world.

Why the hell is it so damn hard for people here to get the same message that are fighting us on this? It’s because they have ulterior motives, and we’ll call the out on that, call a spade a spade.

We are in a trade war. We have not engaged, we have not engaged in the Bush administrations, we have not engaged in the Clinton administration, we have not engaged in the Obama administrations.

The last president in this country to engage and to fight against the trade war against us was Ronald Reagan when it was being perpetrated by the Japanese and the Germans in the 1980s.

We today have a president who gets it, it’s part of his basic makeup.

He’s been arguing these points since the late ’70s, early ’80s. This is not something that’s new to him, it is something that is part of his core beliefs. He is going to deliver on his promise to have massive trade reform and make sure that we actually live in a world where free and fair trade is the dominant form of trade, not trade mercantilism and predatory pricing.

We are in a trade war. President Trump is just engaging now, saying enough’s enough."

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Jan. 2014 WSJ article. China excess steel production gluts global markets, creates oversupply:

1/26/2014, "Steel Imports Into U.S. Surge," Wall St. Journal, John W. Miller 

"Buyers Embrace Cheaper Overseas Prices Amid Global Oversupply" 

"For some domestic steel buyers, it is now cheaper to purchase steel from China than from Pittsburgh.

The reason: a near-record spread between the prices for almost all kinds of steel in the U.S. and steel prices everywhere else. The widening spread, attributed to global oversupply and strong demand from car makers, has sparked a surge of imports, which are expected to reach 3.2 million tons in January, up 23% from 2.6 million tons in the same month a year earlier.

The average price difference between the U.S. and China has jumped to $159 per ton; a year ago, U.S. steel was actually $19 a ton cheaper, according to CRU, a price-analysis firm.

Howard Allen, vice president at Midland Steel Warehouse Corp., is among the U.S. buyers who are purchasing more steel from abroad as the price spread grows. Midland Steel Warehouse, based in the Bronx borough of New York City, buys steel coils and slices them into smaller pieces, cut to specifications, for construction, lighting, office furniture and other products.

A year ago, Mr. Allen relied on domestic steelmakers to supply nearly all of the 4,000 tons that Midland Steel Warehouse needed each month. Now, 30% of the company's monthly steel purchases come from China, India and Brazil—and is of similar quality, he says. "After all the costs are factored in," including shipping, "it ends up being about 10% cheaper," Mr. Allen says.

U.S. steel prices were relatively low until last spring, when large producers such as U.S. Steel Corp., AK Steel Holding Corp. and ArcelorMittal were able to impose price increases, in large part because of strong auto-industry demand and the improving construction market. The average U.S. price for a roll of benchmark hot-rolled coil is now $676, up roughly 10% compared with a year earlier. By comparison, the current price for Chinese hot-rolled coil available to U.S. buyers is $540 a ton.

Meanwhile, although China's government moved to shut down outdated capacity, the country's steel output rose 7.5% in 2013 from the prior year, reaching a record 779 million tons, or seven times more than the world's No. 2 steel producer, Japan. With demand growth in China and elsewhere slowing, "there was a real glut in the global market," says John Packard, publisher of Steel Market Update.

That caused the spread between prices in the U.S. and important steel producers such as Brazil and Germany to start spiking in the fall, says David Lipschitz, an analyst with CLSA Americas. That is when U.S. buyers such as Mr. Allen started ordering imports. "It takes two or three months for the steel to get here," says Mr. Lipschitz. The lower prices make the wait worthwhile, says Mr. Allen.

U.S. steelmakers have been benefiting from the stronger domestic prices, but the increased imports are expected to drive down prices and shipments at some of the companies. U.S. Steel is expected to post a narrower fourth-quarter loss of 26 cents a share on Monday, compared with a loss of 35 cents a share a year earlier. AK Steel is expected to post flat fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, after a loss of $1.89 a share a year earlier. Financial effects from the rising imports began to be felt this month, when steel ordered last fall started to arrive at U.S. ports.

AK Steel, U.S. Steel, and ArcelorMittal, which is scheduled to report its earnings on Feb. 7, declined to comment.
U.S. Steel Chief Executive Mario Longhi told analysts in October he hoped U.S. trade officials would impose tariffs that "result in import prices reflecting more of a regular market condition versus prices distorted by unfair trade practices."

The absence of a significant steelmaker in the eastern U.S., after the closure of the Sparrows Point mill in Baltimore, also influenced Mr. Allen's decision to buy foreign steel. The mill, which was owned by RG Steel LLC, shut down two years ago because of high labor costs and a lack of demand on the East Coast. RG Steel is now in bankruptcy-court protection.

"There's no major source of steel on the East Coast anymore between Baltimore and New England," says Mr. Allen.
Steel buyers in the South and Midwest say importing steel isn't as attractive, because they can buy it from nearby steel plants and avoid shipping costs.

To be sure, the U.S. lacks sufficient steel capacity, and has relied on imports for decades. The country consumes about 108 million tons a year, of which about 75% is made by U.S. producers. The rest is made by foreign steelmakers and imported, Mr. Packard says. Imports could take a larger share of the market, roughly 30%, by the end of this year if the price spread remains so wide that it is cheaper to purchase foreign steel, he says.

"It's the largest first-quarter import order I've seen in the last five years," says a steel trader, who brokers steel sales between U.S. buyers and foreign sellers and whose employer doesn't allow him to be quoted by name. "Now it's slowing down as people wait for their boats to arrive, but it will persist in the second quarter."

Imports are the primary reason most analysts expect steel prices in the U.S. to fall this year. Josh Spoores, who analyzes prices for CRU, says imports are expected to maintain their strength in February and March. "There'll be a large wave of imports in the first half," he says, adding that prices have likely peaked for the year.
 
Detroit is hungry for steel at the moment. U.S. auto makers are expected to sell 16 million vehicles this year, up from 10.4 million in 2009.

For steel traders in the Midwest and South, importing doesn't hold the same allure. Tom Calhoun, president of Chicago-based Calhoun Steel Co., says it is a gamble. "Imports take time to get here, you're not sure about quality and by the time they get here, there may be a cheaper option in the U.S."

Mr. Allen says he would prefer that the 45-person Midland Steel Warehouse buy all of its 50,000 annual tons of steel from domestic producers. "And that will come back," he says. "This business, it's always a cycle.""

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Among comments to Wall St. Journal article:


"

The worldwide price drop in steel is predictable given the well publicisized overproduction that has been occurring for years. This is not a union issue as but an overproduction issue. The heavily subsidized foreign producers can dump their products here below any price we can produce steel since they are not constrained by economic realities. This is just another example of how free trade is not free. You would think we would have learned this lesson after the past thirty years have destroyed the American a manufacturing base and the American middle class. In 1953, manufacturing was 48% of our economy, now it is 8%. That's one of the reasons there are few good jobs here anymore."

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Communist China doubles down, continues overproducing steel, aluminum, diesel, other goods, driving down prices, crippling competitors, leading to thousands more US jobs lost. Workers in Europe protest Chinese steel imports, Australia investigates China dumping solar panels. China says "jobs maintain social stability"-Wall St. Journal 

*Updated link (link below inactive): "China Continues to Prop Up Its Ailing Factories, Adding to Global Glut," WSJ

5/9/2016, "China Continues to Prop Up Its Ailing Factories, Adding to Global Glut," Wall St. Journal, 



The country’s overproduction of steel, aluminum, diesel and other industrial goods has driven down prices and crippled competitors, leading to thousands of lost jobs in the U.S. and elsewhere.

China’s continuing aid for unneeded factories is triggering a sharp rise in trade disputes and protectionist sentiment, especially in the U.S., where trade has emerged as one of the pivotal issues in the U.S. presidential election.

According to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Chinese public companies, Chinese government support includes billions of dollars in cash assistance, subsidized electricity and other benefits to companies. Recipients include steelmakers, coal miners, solar-panel manufacturers, and other producers of other goods including copper and chemicals.

One beneficiary, Aluminum Corp. of China, or Chalco, said in October one of its units would shut down a roughly 500,000-ton-per-year smelter in the far-western Gansu region as it struggled to make profits. Executives prepped for thousands of layoffs.
Then Gansu officials slashed the plant’s electricity bill by 30%, employees say, and the factory was saved. Although a portion of capacity was taken offline, most is operational.

“We’re in full production now with 380,000 tons of capacity,” said Fei Zhongchang, a company sales manager. Chalco’s press office and local government officials didn’t respond to requests for further comment.

In Europe, workers have joined protests against Chinese steel imports. Australia has investigated dumping of products including solar panels and steel and India has raised import taxes on steel after a surge of cheap Chinese goods.

The U.S. launched seven new investigations into alleged dumping or government subsidies involving Chinese goods in the first three months of this year [2015], more than the same period of any other year dating back to at least 2003, government data show.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Commerce Department slapped preliminary import duties of 266% on imported Chinese cold-rolled steel. The decision came after U.S. Steel Corp. lost $1.5 billion last year, closed its last blast furnace in the South and laid off thousands of workers, blaming China.

Late last month [April 2016], U.S. Steel filed a trade complaint against China at the International Trade Commission, alleging price fixing, trans-shipment via third countries to avoid duties and cyber-espionage to loot technology off U.S. Steel computers. China’s Commerce Ministry has urged U.S. authorities to reject the complaint, and said allegations of intellectual property infringement “are completely without factual basis.”

China says it isn’t guilty of dumping—or selling a product at a loss in order to gain market share—and calls U.S. and EU measures and investigations forms of protectionism. It says it has mothballed factories and intends to cut more, with plans to lay off up to 1.8 million steel and coal workers.

Officials say it is natural for complaints against China to increase as the country takes on a large share of global trade.

“As the largest trader in goods, it’s quite understandable for us to have so many” complaints, China’s Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said recently. “We need to take it as it comes and live with it.”

One way of tracking China’s support is by looking at subsidies reported in corporate filings on the country’s two main stock exchanges in Shanghai and Shenzhen.

According to a Journal analysis of nearly 3,000 domestic-listed Chinese companies in 2015, reported government aid rose to more than 119 billion yuan, or more than $18 billion, last year compared with about 92 billion yuan in 2014.

Reported subsidies have risen roughly 50% since 2013, based on figures from Shanghai data provider Wind Information Co. Under Chinese accounting standards, such aid can be cash or other perks like subsidized power or land, but doesn’t include some other support, such as capital injections from the government as an equity shareholder.

Recipients include an ethanol producer that said it was promised as much as 40 million yuan ($6.1 million) in subsidies in the first three months this year because of “grave operating circumstances.”

A producer of titanium dioxide—which is used in products such as paint and sunscreen—won about 28 million yuan ($4.3 million) in cash assistance as it seeks to expand in the North America and elsewhere.

Another company, Yunnan Aluminium Co., obtained nearly 500 million yuan ($77 million) in subsidies since late 2015, securities filings show. In the first half of 2015, the company says its production of alumina—the starting material for smelting aluminum metal—jumped 40%, even as revenue sank amid weakening prices.

Company representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment.

An official at the provincial Department of Finance, which administered much of the cash aid, said it acted to protect Yunnan Aluminium’s 10,000 jobs.

The government’s aim is to help maintain social stability,” the official said.

Other countries, including the U.S., offer substantial support for struggling industries.

Experts cite differences in China, which they say is less open about its use of subsidies and more inclined to use them to promote exports. China has repeatedly said it would shutter unneeded factories, without following through.

The need for capacity cuts in China has long been apparent. More than 40% of its major steel companies were losing money in the first half of 2015, according to the China Iron and Steel Association.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, which oversees the steel industry, told the Journal in 2014 that authorities were already “in the process of implementing” capacity reductions.

Since then, Chinese crude steel production has fallen 2% year-on-year in 2015 to about 804 million metric tons. But industry experts in China, the U.S. and Europe say a further 200 million metric tons of capacity—or about 25% of China’s production—needs to be cut to restore market balance. China’s steel exports jumped around 20% last year to 112 million metric tons, according to customs data.

A 63-page “investigation initiation checklist,” filed last year by U.S. Steel Corp., Nucor Corp. and the United Steelworkers union to demand import tariffs on rolled steel, found 44 separate subsidy programs, including seven that give Chinese steelmakers cheap or free land, iron ore, coal, and power; eight that offer discount loans; 15 tax breaks; and 11 programs that give companies money directly.

Some of the programs date back years, but others were active in the past 12 months, including subsidized export loans, the document showed.

“It’s the whole range of practices that keep these zombie companies alive,” said Roger Schagrin, a lawyer for U.S. steelmakers.

At the time, a spokesman for China’s Commerce Ministry said restrictions on Chinese steel would not solve the global overcapacity problem, and encouraged Chinese steel companies to defend their rights."

Other Chinese products rattling markets include diesel fuel, with Chinese exports rising nearly 80% in 2015 over 2014, according to customs data. China has loosened restrictions to let private refiners export fuel for the first time, given weak domestic demand.

While U.S. energy companies shed staff, China’s by and large haven’t. Refining giant China Petroleum and Chemical Corp., whose net profit fell by 30% in 2015, told the Journal no employees have been laid off since late 2014 when oil prices began to fall, and that it had “no plan for any future layoffs.” The company, also known as Sinopec, employs about 351,000 people.

China’s aluminum production, meanwhile, rose to 32 million tons in 2015, double the level in 2005. Exports soared to 6.7 million tons from 2.6 million during the same period, helping push global prices down 40% in the past five years. The number of smelters in the U.S. has fallen to four from 23 in 2000, destroying thousands of jobs.

Tensions over lost jobs reflect wider frustrations that China hasn’t lived up to all the promises it made when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2001.

According to data collected by the WTO, China accounted for around 25% of all anti-dumping measures reported between 1995 and 2014, more than any other nation. The U.S. was the target in about 5% of measures, the data show."


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