FACT CHECK: Does China Produce As Much Steel In A Month As The US Does In A Year?
President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that China produces as much steel in a month as the U.S. does in a year.
China, on average, produced more steel every 36 days in 2017 than the U.S. did during that entire year.
Trump signed controversial tariffs on imported steel and aluminum Thursday during a White House ceremony. Speaking to the press, as well as workers in the steel and aluminum industries, Trump emphasized how poorly American producers stack up against their global competitors.
“Other countries have added production capacity that far exceeds demand, and flooded the world market with cheap metal that is subsidized by foreign governments,” he said. “It takes China about one month to produce as much steel as they produce in the United States in an entire year because we’ve closed down so much capacity.”
Trump is likely citing a January Commerce Department report. “On an average month, China produces nearly as much steel as the U.S. does in a year,” the Commerce Department notes as a key finding.
China is the world’s largest producer of steel. Data from the World Steel Association, an industry trade group, indicates that China produced almost 832 million metric tons of crude steel in 2017, accounting for about half of global production.
Monthly Chinese steel production in 2017 ranged between roughly 61 million and 75 million metric tons. This is comparable to the nearly 82 million metric tons of crude steel that the U.S. produced during the entire year – an amount Chinese production exceeded, on average, every 36 days.
China’s steel industry has grown significantly in the recent past. Annual crude steel production has almost doubled since 2006, and the Commerce Department estimates that quarterly Chinese steel exports have grown 219 percent since 2009.
The U.S., on the other hand, produced 17 percent less crude steel in 2017 as it did in 2006, while quarterly steel imports have more than tripled since 2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the U.S. has shed over 19,000 industry jobs since 2007.
Data from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development shows that U.S. production capacity has remained remained roughly stagnant over the past decade.
Trump is not the only one to express concern over the Chinese steel industry. The European Union, trade groups and labor unions have for years alleged that state-owned and subsidized Chinese steel mills have resorted to “dumping” excess production – exporting the steel at below-market prices.
Undercut by cheap Chinese imports and an oversupply on the global market, domestic producers in the U.S. have struggled to compete, forcing worker layoffs.
China has launched some initiatives to curb steel production, but some say that China has a history of failing to live up to its promises. Industry and labor groups argue that Trump’s tariffs will give them the breathing room they need from unfair Chinese competition to regain lost ground and restart production.
Many opponents of the tariffs dispute, however, that Chinese dumping is harmful for Americans and the U.S. economy.
“Due to market interventions by China, millions of Americans are buying more with their greenback, raising their real incomes. The people who are paying for this are Chinese citizens, who are required to endure the taxation to subsidize industry,” a November article by the free market Mises Institute argues. “China is providing so many in the U.S. with a form of economic relief.”
Others worry that U.S. trading partners may end up imposing retaliatory tariffs of their own against American goods, sparking a trade war that could be harmful to the economy.
“Our friends and enemies have taken advantage of the U.S. for many years,” Trump recently tweeted. “Our Steel and Aluminum industries are dead. Sorry, it’s time for a change!”
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