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Remarks by Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at Century Aluminum Smelter in Hawesville, Kentucky


Thank you, Dustin, for that kind introduction, and thank you Michael Bless and the workers here in Hawesville for graciously hosting me and our team from the Department of Commerce. We are honored to be here to celebrate this historic day.

We just finished touring the famous Hawesville plant, the re-opening pot line, and meeting with Century’s executive team and workers. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the work that you are doing here. Congratulations.

This is a first-rate facility, producing the purest aluminum in the world.  It is run by an outstanding team of workers and managers. Your products are essential to our critical infrastructure and to our military. I would love for every American to experience first-hand the vital work that you are doing here.

I cannot imagine what it would be like for our country and for our military if all five of the pot lines in this plant were closed and shuttered, like the 23 other aluminum smelters in the United States that have shut down since 2000 and sit empty — abandoned.  Instead, we are here today to celebrate the reopening of the first of three pot lines that are required for America’s national security.

This would not have happened without the hard work that all of you have done to raise awareness of the hardships that unfair foreign trade practices have caused for your industry. Thank you for your steadfast commitment to Made in the U.S.A.

In looking at the numbers, the U.S. aluminum industry produced only 744,000 metric tons last year. U.S. demand for aluminum has been growing, but that demand has not been filled by U.S. producers. Imports accounted for almost 90 percent of the U.S. market last year.

On a global scale, U.S. aluminum production accounted for less than 1 percent of world output.

And while U.S. production has steadily declined since 2000, China’s output of aluminum has increased by 1,390 percent, from 2.4 million metric tons in 2000 to a whopping 36.2 million metric tons in 2017. China’s output last year was 49 times higher than U.S. production, and almost all of it was sub-standard, and subsidized — produced by state-owned enterprises.

For the first time in decades, we are changing the trajectory of the industry.  Many have painted our efforts to create a level playing field and ensure the continued viability of the aluminum industry as the starting of a trade war. But you have been engaged in this fight for a long time.

Manufacturing companies and workers like you located in thousands of rural communities have been fighting unfair foreign trade practices for decades.  But our leaders have never fought by your side. This is not a new fight. This is a case of the U.S. government finally standing up for American workers, American families, and America’s national security.

It has taken too long for the U.S. government to do what American Patriots like you have been asking of them for decades: To bring global markets back into balance with trade that is free, fair, and reciprocal. But times have changed.

Since President Trump took office, the United States has created 382,000 manufacturing jobs. And after suffering the loss of 65,000 factories between 2001 and 2013, the United States had a net addition of 4,056 new factories last year. It is a good start.

We are rebuilding the American industrial base and our defense capabilities; and we are rebuilding trust in the American government to do what is best for American workers. Thanks to that dedication, the bold economic vision of President Trump has delivered 4.1 percent GDP growth — something many people thought was impossible.

Good paying jobs like those here at Century are necessary our American growth and prosperity.  These jobs create even more jobs in the community — for those who work in the local police and fire departments; the school districts and heath care providers; in the local restaurants, retail and nonprofits. Even the local baseball and soccer leagues benefit from the jobs created in manufacturing.

For each job at the Hawesville plant, there are dozens of other highly skilled and good-paying jobs in your supply chain and in your customer base. Your jobs are essential to assuring the safety of our troops whether they are in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or a Littoral Combat Ship.

Thank you for the pride you take in making products in the United States of America. Thank you for your perseverance. And thank you for your support.