North Carolina Republican US Sens. Ted Budd and Thom Tillis are urging federal officials to immediately limit the volume of Mexican steel concrete reinforcing bar, or rebar, being imported into the United States. The two say the imports threatens jobs in North Carolina and across the country.

On Monday, the senators sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai urging them to take action to stem the surge of Mexican steel imports that will include measures to immediately and meaningfully limit the volume of rebar being imported.

The letter states that in May 2019, the United States removed a 25% tariff on Mexican steel imports as part of an agreement that imports would not “surge meaningfully beyond historic volumes of trade.” But based on a historical 2015-2017 baseline, Mexican rebar imports increased from 11,203 metric tons per year to 201,943 metric tons in 2023. That 1,703% increase means that imports are more than 18 times greater today than they were less than a decade ago.

While Tai is negotiating a voluntary export monitoring agreement with Mexico to limit Mexican imports of certain steel products, Budd and Tillis say that rebar is not included on the list of products subject to immediate monitoring, and they have serious concerns about that because a higher volume could indicate an even greater surge of imports, which will have a significant effect on the domestic rebar industry across the U.S. and in North Carolina. 

Rebar is a critical component of our country’s roads, bridges, buildings, and other critical infrastructure. 

The pair said that Charlotte-based Nucor Corporation broke ground last year on a $350 million rebar mill in Lexington, NC. When completed, this mill will produce up to 430,000 tons of rebar annually and create at least 180 new jobs, with an average annual wage of nearly $100,000. 

“This and other similar investments, and the jobs they create, are at risk if rebar imports from Mexico continue to surge unabated,” Budd and Tillis said.

In addition, they said, “Mexican rebar producers have also been found to be circumventing the U.S. trade laws, which allows them to export even greater volumes at the expense of the American rebar industry.”

A report out earlier this year found that Mexico has now surpassed China in the amount of goods overall imported to the United States.