President Trump urged to address excess aluminum from China

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Lawmakers are urging President Trump to address excess aluminum capacity in China in the wake of Alcoa Corporation’s announcement that the Pittsburgh-based company’s Intalco Works smelter in Ferndale will close this summer. The facility employs approximately 700 people, most of whom would lose their jobs.

In a May 1 letter to President Trump, U.S. representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Rick Larsen (WA-02) and senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell said that Trump’s current trade policies are not working. They called the Trump administration’s “phase one” deal with China a “missed opportunity” to reduce Chinese overcapacity or reform its state-owned enterprises.

“It is evident that your administration’s approach to Chinese overcapacity so far has not had its intended effect and we urge you to prioritize resolving this issue,” said the letter, which was signed by four lawmakers including DelBene, a co-chair of the congressional aluminum caucus.

The two-page letter specifically mentioned the Intalco Works facility’s closure and the “devastating impact on the surrounding community” that will follow if 700 jobs are lost. The letter urged President Trump to fix the broken exclusion process and “combat China’s predatory trade practices.”

The letter concluded by thanking President Trump for his attention to the matter. “We are happy to work with you as we fight to save American jobs in the aluminum industry,” the letter said. Copies of the letter were also sent to U.S. commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and ambassador Robert Lighthizer.

Separately, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sent a letter to President Trump asking him to use all means necessary, including the Defense Production Act, to save the Ferndale facility, which is the last of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and one of only seven primary aluminum smelters remaining in the U.S.

“Allowing this facility to close would do significant and irreversible damage to our nation’s capacity to produce aluminum, severely weaken our domestic supply chain and jeopardize our national security, particularly in times of national emergency or foreign conflict,” wrote union leaders Robert Martinez Jr. and Gary Allen, who said the closure of the plant will exacerbate America’s steel deficit with China.

They added, “The reliance on foreign aluminum has once again become noticeably apparent during the current Covid-19 pandemic, where high-quality aluminum is needed quickly and seamlessly to manufacture ventilators, hospital beds and other vital medical equipment.”

A May 5 press release announcing the union’s letter to President Trump noted that the union is collecting signatures on a petition to save the plant. Each of the facility’s 700 jobs supports about 4.2 indirect and induced jobs in the region, the union said. 

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