Nucor CEO: US losing 'trade war' in steel

As Washington lawmakers wrestle over health care, Nucor CEO John Ferriola sees a much more pressing issue at hand that affects more than just his steel-producing company.

“There’s no doubt we’re in a trade war. We are losing that trade war. It is time to take action to support the American industry and the American people. And beyond just the steel industry, we’re talking manufacturing as a whole,” Ferriola told “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer on Monday. “Steel is the bedrock of manufacturing. Manufacturing is the bedrock of any strong economy.”

Ferriola said that because foreign competitors are motivated not by profits, but by employment, those countries are effectively trying to “export their unemployment” to the United States steel industry, hurting companies doing business stateside.

Moreover, if those competitors’ low-cost imports continue to pressure U.S. steel producers that supply materials for everything from tractors to appliances, Ferriola said they would eventually engulf the whole U.S. market.

“There’s no doubt, when you have predatory countries like China, as an example, they will take care of their own appliance [and] tractor industries in China before they worry about supplying steel to those American manufacturers here,” the CEO said. “Steel is a raw material that’s essential for all manufacturing. You want to make sure you have a strong steel industry to have a strong manufacturing industry.”

Despite these calls from high-profile steel CEOs like Ferriola, President Donald Trump has not yet been able to push through policy putting tariffs on steel imports.

However, if the policy were passed, Ferriola said that Nucor and its peers would be able to unleash a whole new wave of improvements meant to boost business, which was slightly weak for Nucor, according to its second-quarter earnings report.

“If you look at the last six, seven years, we’ve invested over $7 billion growing our company, and we’re doing that in an environment where we’re not sure we have a sustainable industry,” Ferriola told Cramer. “Can you imagine the action that Nucor would take and others in our industry would take in growing our business, creating jobs, if we were assured of a sustainable environment in which we could operate our industry?”