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As White House aide McDonough visits Range, questions about Pacific trade deal linger

Next week, the Iron Range will get a visit from one of the country’s most powerful officials: White House Chief of Staff and Stillwater, Minnesota, native Denis McDonough will travel there for a day to meet with officials and residents.

Denis McDonough
Denis McDonough

The official reason for McDonough’s visit is to address the dire state of the mining industry on the Range, and while he’s there, he’ll meet with locals and hear out their concerns.

The news of McDonough’s trip was welcomed by Gov. Mark Dayton, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken, and Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents the Iron Range. The Democratic politicians hope the visit from President Obama’s top advisor will spark a wider White House effort to aid the area, and they’ll all be present to greet him.

What won’t be so welcome on the range is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The proposed agreement, which would establish a free trade zone between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific nations, is a top second-term priority for the White House.

The TPP is deeply unpopular in blue-collar communities with strong unions — just like the Range, where locals believe the pact would devastate the already struggling mining industry. Nolan has been a leading critic of TPP, and Franken and Klobuchar joined him in voting against advancing an Obama-backed trade package this summer.

So, as much as the trip is an opportunity for the White House to show it cares about the plight of the Iron Range, will McDonough be able to convince Rangers that the administration has their best interests at heart as it pushes its trade deal?

TPP not home on the Range

Central to Iron Rangers’ concern over the TPP is the notion it will not do enough to stop so-called steel dumping, which many say has already done immense harm to the mining industry in the U.S. Countries like China and Japan have been flooding the U.S. market with metals that are deliberately under-priced in order to compete better against U.S.-made products.

Industry advocates and Minnesota politicians blame dumping for the rough state of the mining industry. (The high level of global commodity supply, and low level of demand, has not helped.) Two thousand Iron Range mining workers have lost their jobs this year, and several mining facilities on the Range have shuttered. Nolan says it might be the most dramatic, significant downturn he’s ever seen the industry face. He, and other Minnesota members of Congress, have introduced legislation to raise tariffs on other countries’ metal exports to a high enough level to end dumping.

But TPP could make such tariffs impossible. The sweeping agreement, which is subject to congressional approval, would establish a new free-trade zone with the U.S. and partners like including Vietnam, Japan, and Australia. (Japan is the world’s number two steel producer, ahead of the U.S.) The agreement would necessarily entail getting rid of tariffs on most goods from those countries, and trade negotiators in Japan likely would not welcome high U.S. tariffs on steel.

The TPP currently contains no language that specifically protects steel, so the U.S. mining industry is worried that the pact could put it at a major competitive disadvantage. It is also worried that TPP wouldn’t do enough to curb currency manipulation, which countries like Japan sometimes do to strengthen their exporting positions.

It hasn’t been all bad news for allies of steel, however: in December, the House passed the Enforcement Act, a Democratic-pushed measure that would give U.S. steel companies increased power to take legal action against steel dumping from China and other countries. Klobuchar and Franken introduced the Senate version of the bill, and it could pass — potentially making the approval of TPP easier to swallow for the Range’s supporters.

Can the president protect Iron Range steel?

In statements to MinnPost, Franken and Klobuchar did not specifically mention any points of tension with the White House. “What’s happening on the Iron Range is terrible, and for many workers and their families, it’s a desperate time,” Franken said. “We continue to see illegally dumped steel flooding our markets and contributing to job losses. I’ve asked the President to take necessary steps to address this… We need to explore every option to fix this crisis.”

Klobuchar, who said she “worked hard” to get McDonough to visit the Range, said that she hopes he “will urge the administration to take concrete action to implement stronger enforcement measures to confront foreign companies illegally dumping steel into the American market” after he visits.

In a conversation with MinnPost, Nolan maintained McDonough’s visit would not create any awkwardness, because the administration has some wiggle room to protect the U.S. mining industry under TPP. “Under the U.S. trade laws, there’s Section 201, that simply says domestic industries that are seriously injured or threatened can seek relief through a presidential action,” Nolan explained, adding that such an action wouldn’t require an official finding of unfair trade practices. (However, in that case, other countries could still take legal action against the U.S.)

“It’s an option there that the president can consider that is not inconsistent with support for free trade,” Nolan said. Indeed, George W. Bush, a major free trade proponent, took action in 2002 to raise tariffs on imported steel.

‘It’s a big deal’

The White House’s advocacy for free trade aside, there’s no reason to believe native-son McDonough won’t receive a warm welcome from Dayton, Franken, Klobuchar, and Nolan when he gets to Minnesota on Tuesday. He is slated to visit Range Community and Technical College in Virginia, and meet with mining industry workers and executives, as well as local officials and business leaders.

Difference of opinion on the TPP notwithstanding, Minnesota politicians are treating McDonough’s visit as part of a serious, good-faith effort from Obama to aid the struggling mining industry. “It’s a big deal,” Nolan said. “It’s not very often the president sends his chief of staff out anywhere in the country to address a particular concern.”

“This is a great opportunity for us to have the ear of the president and see if we can’t get this turned around.”

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 12/18/2015 - 11:55 am.

    It’s just Dude

    from down the street here in Stillwater. Chill out everyone and give the guy some space to enjoy Christmas at home.

  2. Submitted by joe smith on 12/18/2015 - 04:39 pm.

    Obama has done everything in his power to shut down mining be it coal, taconite or any other form. Why would he offer a good will gesture now?

  3. Submitted by DavidEH Smith on 12/19/2015 - 10:07 am.

    Supreme Court of Canada, et al, Submission Delays TPP, et al?

    How much is ‘The Submission’ to The Supreme Court of Canada, et al, delaying the TPP, et al?

    TPP, et al; Compensations. Why not make Global Corporate Partners pay for ‘Privilege’ of joining TPP, et al?
    Hormone treated milk production banned in Canada for health reasons (Corporate Canada pays milk farmers Compensation for their TPP demise & Compensation to milk consumers for health risks), or, was production banned to protect the milk farmers & industry (Corporate Canada may be off the hook if Foreign milk Labelled ‘Hormone Treated’ & with Health Tax)?

    Has Trudeau Read & Understood the TPP, et al? When will he be prepared to answer the Questions re; TPP & its relationship to The WAD Accord’s Compensation & the Corporations of the TPP’s Contribution to it?

    Much More Taxpayer (non-Corporate America/Canada) paid for Litigation on the Way as Native Canadians, et al, look to Courts for Certainty (see; ‘Nexen’) re; Global Corporate ’Arrangements’ (treaties). Liberals (Canada) swear that they may not have had part of the Planning & Cover-up of The Residential Schools’ Native Canadian Cultural Genocide & Ordained Pedophile Rings?

    New PM Trudeau denies depriving Global Corporate Associates, et al, of Due Diligence info & questions in The WAD Accord’s Compensation? Contributions to WAD Compensation by Global Corporate Associates & citizens of TPP, China & EU nations with ‘informed consent’?

    But, which international stockbrokers have not protected their clients from ‘The Submission’ to The Supreme Court of Canada? Another ‘unregulated’, designed, Wall St. ‘meltdown’, but, global via Treaties/’Arrangements’? And, who will protect the ‘harmless’ taxpayers?


    PRESIDENT OBAMA, PRIME MINISTER TRUDEAU (CAN.), the leaders of the other political parties operating in Canada, the executives of the parties, Leaders & citizens of the EU, China, the Trans-Pacific nations, et al;
    After serving you with; “NOTIFICATION of Pre-existing CHALLENGE(s) to the TPP, C-CITreaty (FIPPA), the CETAgrement, the TPPartnership, et al” on, or, about, 2015,
    do you think that it would prudent for both; Canadians & non-Canadian who are the potential shareholders & non-shareholders of the businesses, industries & enterprises that will be generated by, or, effected by, the aforementioned agreements, treaties, &/or, partnerships, to wait for the findings regarding:

    ‘The Submission’ to The SUPREME COURT of CANADA:
    ‘The SHAREHOLDERS & Corporations of AMERICA, China, Canada, the EU, the Trans Pacific nations, et al
    the (harmless) Canadian NON shareholders, both; Native & non Native, et al’
    (Excerpts of ‘The Submission’, see,;Google)
    ‘The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter; To Sue, or, Be Sued?’
    (see; Google)?

    And, what, if anything, have you & the other leaders done that will ensure that those voters that have not been privy to the aforementioned agreements, treaties, &/or, partnerships, have the same, or, more time (ie. 10 years for non-lawyers) to read, consider, discuss, improve upon, &/or, reject, or, accept (with funding by corporate Canada to pay the requisite contingent of lawyers to work out; a) the dollar impact for the harmless taxpayers & the designers of the ‘original’ draft; corporate Canada and b) alternatives.

    Furthermore, what is the schedule of punitive penalties that the voters will receive from Corporate Canada & the federal government if/when the TPP, et al, Tribunals try to take trade penalties from the top of the taxpayers budgets in order that the Tribunals’ penalties don’t interfere with expanding our spending for health care, education, CPP & other services. That is to say; the TPP penalties need to be at the bottom of the ‘balanced’ federal, et al, budgets; after all other payments, compensations & suits by the provinces/municipalities against corporate Canada & the federal government as per ‘The Submission’ to The Supreme Court of Canada (see;Google ) & ‘The MERKEL (Chancellor of Germany) Letter’ (see; Google)?

    And, ‘finally’, Canadian provinces, such as, Alberta, that allow Canadian corporations to pollute, frack for LNG, etc., do not set precedents for all of Canada, it merely allows foreign/global signatories to do pollute, frack for LNG, etc. in the jurisdiction of Alberta, but, these foreign corporations must maintain rigorous environmental standards that will not challenge the neighboring provinces, &/or, the other effected jurisdictions. Under these & other circumstances the corporations are deemed liable & fit to be sued by all of the effected jurisdictions of Canada.

    Please also remember Mr. Trudeau, et al, that if all of the harmless voters/taxpayers demand shares in the aforementioned businesses, industries& enterprises as a consequence of the encumbrances of their rights,& /or, the future marginalizing of their rights, the entire TPP & the other Global Corporate Treaties/’Arrangements’ come tumbling down as the cross-suing global corporations will be placed in the situation that we’ve discussed before whereby, the corporations will be in fact suing themselves without being able to totally pass along their liabilities, such as the secret Tribunals’ punitive penalties, to the harmless, voters/taxpayers.

    And, as the need to compensate Canadian; dairy farmers, auto manufacturers, fishermen, et al, has been created by corporation Canada in order for it & its shareholders to benefit directly from their secret ‘arrangements’, do you understand the need for the compensations to be taken from the gross earnings (trillions of dollars over the life time of the secretly growing scope of the TPP, et al) of the businesses, industries & enterprises that will be generated by, or, positively affected by, the aforementioned agreements, treaties, &/or, partnerships,
    and thus, the compensations will absolutely not be paid for in any part by the harmless voters/taxpayers, &/or, any of the potentially ‘indirect’ beneficiaries?

    As always, I look forward to reading about your thoughts, your questions, your feelings, your improvements, etc., & those of your fellow party leaders, the executives of the parties, et al, regarding the enclosed.

    If you should have any questions, or, problems with this issue, &/or, any other, I can be contacted at the numbers & addresses that I’ve previously provided you with.

    David E.H. Smith
    – Researcher
    – ‘Qui tam…’

    your signature
    ***For the FULL Letter with various sub-titles, see; Google ***FULL ‘Submission’, see; The Supreme Court of Canada’,
    Or, Contact DEHSmith
    ***For FULL Article; ‘Well, You should have known’, see; Google ***For more Information & Questions re; The Relationship between Human (Nature) Rights & Economics by way of the TTIP, the CET Agreement, TPP, C-CI Treaty, et al, and The WAD Accord & List of RECENT ARTICLES, LETTERS & NOTIFICATIONS by DEHS, see; Google ***Please consider sharing the enclosed information& questions with 10 friends… who will share it with 10 others…

  4. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 12/19/2015 - 07:22 pm.

    Prove that the “dumping” is illegal

    I’m sure that there are plenty of corporations that are willing to sell their product at a loss, just none that anyone identify and prove. When all of our State and National representatives get together to help the coal mining people that have lost their jobs (by our own government design), then I think that we should make exceptions and offer aid to a business that is declining and will not ever return to past levels.

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