Senators fight for titanium

U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, are fighting a move that could grant full foreign-trade zone benefits to a British company.

In a letter sent to the Department of Commerce, the three senators call on the Department of Commerce to consider the effects on domestic companies caused if full foreign-trade zone benefits are granted to companies like Firth Rixson, a South Yorkshire, U.K., maker of titanium products. Granting the foreign-trade zone status could allow the company to import titanium billets for use without paying the normal 15 percent duty, and could lead to a reduction in purchase of domestic titanium from companies like Weathersfield’s RTI International Metals.

According to the letter released Wednesday, the board staff of the foreign-trade zone has recommended that the board grant the application.

“If the Board were to grant Firth Rixson’s application in full, we have little doubt that it would quickly lead to significant harm to domestic titanium producers and forgers,” the letter said.

“This move would give foreign companies an unfair advantage over the many titanium manufacturers in Ohio, potentially threatening jobs during an already weak economy,” said Portman. “The Department of Commerce should stand up for domestic titanium producers and provide them the needed tools to compete on a level playing field with their foreign competitors.”

“The Department of Commerce must put American workers, Ohio jobs, and our national defense first,” Brown echoed.

Foreign Trade Zones were created by Congress to support domestic manufacturing. However, allowing international corporations to import production materials to the United States duty-free would place domestic industries at a disadvantage, the senators argued. It also could create a precedent for future applications, with the potential to effectively eliminate standard import duties, they said.