JOHNSTOWN - As U.S. Sen. Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., toured a busy Johnstown Wire Technologies plant Monday, he couldn't help but wonder aloud how much busier it could be.
The 265-employee carbon and alloy wire-maker, housed in a former Bethlehem Steel plant, would be among thousands of U.S. companies that would stand to benefit if China was forced to revalue its currency. Casey said China's currency is currently fixed at low rates compared to the dollar, which allows it to produce and export its goods at an "unfairly" low rate.
"If China revalued its currency by 28 percent, it would mean an estimated 1.8 million jobs in the U.S.," Casey told a crowd of steelworkers on Monday. He said an Economic Policy Institute report suggested the Chinese "yuan," whose value is fixed to the U.S. dollar, was believed to be 40 percent lower than what it should be.
China and its growing economy has taken advantage of the value by flooding the market with below-fair market goods, making it difficult for the world's competitors.
"Cracking down on China's unfair trade practices is one important way we can make it easier for businesses like Johnstown Wire Technologies to grow and create jobs," he added, moments after watching company employees "draw down" metal coil into thin wire during a tour.
Casey noted Johnstown Wire does well despite the disadvantages.
They count Stanley Black & Decker and U.S. auto industry contractors among their customer base, company president Walt Robertson said.
China "is ignoring the rules," Robertson said, and has taken 15 percent of the world's wire-making business.
Casey said he is pushing for several efforts to make China play by the same trade rules that U.S. companies must obey, citing the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Act.