Anyone still perplexed by the rise of Donald Trump need only take a 50 minute drive from here to the town of Gramercy, where the 444 men and women who work at Noranda’s alumina refinery are at risk of losing their jobs because China is cheating the rules of global trade.

Since opening in 2004, this refinery has helped feed the exponential growth in demand for the aluminum used to build pickup trucks, fighter jets, and body armor for our troops.

Today, American industry’s appetite for aluminum is higher than it has ever been. And yet, these workers are facing devastating layoffs because the Chinese government is illegally subsidizing aluminum production.

What’s happening in Gramercy is playing out in states and communities across the country – where over 10,000 family sustaining, high paying manufacturing jobs are at risk of disappearing. The Obama administration must take decisive action now to combat China’s illegal market manipulation and bring relief to these families immediately.

What’s happening in Gramercy is playing out in states and communities across the country – where over 10,000 family sustaining, high paying manufacturing jobs are at risk of disappearing. The Obama administration must take decisive action now to combat China’s illegal market manipulation and bring relief to these families immediately.

When you look at how China has been cheating American aluminum workers, you can understand why millions of people are angry about the consequences of unfair global trade.

Over the past 15 years, China has extended a variety of illegal subsidies to its domestic aluminum producers – including below market electricity, debt forgiveness, free use of government-owned land, and interest free loans. These subsidies have not only allowed a previously unprofitable industry to stay afloat, but also have flooded the international market with product and collapsed the global price of aluminum.

The impact of this price collapse has been devastating for American workers. In the past year alone, these illegal subsidies have forced 60 percent of the primary aluminum smelters in the United States to shutter. Thousands of jobs have already disappeared. This, in turn, has catastrophic consequences for workers across the entire aluminum supply chain – from boxite mines, to alumina refineries like the one in Gramercy, to extrusion companies. Soon, small communities, counties, and parishes across the country will feel the impact in the form of lost tax revenue. This means that communities that are already struggling with tighter budgets may have to fire thousands of teachers, police officers, and firefighters. This is simply wrong.

China’s behavior in this situation directly contradicts the commitments it made when it reached an agreement to join the World Trade Organization in 2001. This agreement expressly forbid the kind of subsidies China is now providing to its domestic aluminum industry.

When the Senate debated granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations Status in 2000, I argued that admitting China into the World Trade Organization would give us the tools to fight back if they broke the rules. In my view, China is breaking the rules right now. And we should use the tools we have to take action by filing a subsidies case against China at the WTO immediately.

The successful resolution of this case, which should be a foregone conclusion given China’s egregious behavior, would solve the root cause of the aluminum overcapacity crisis in the United States and provide job certainty to the thousands of people who depend on this industry.

I have always been a strong supporter of international trade, but cases like this demonstrate that it must be not only free, but also fair.

Everyone needs to be held to the same standard and we must hold countries accountable when they cheat. By taking decisive action both at home and abroad, the United States can save the thousands of high paying jobs that depend on the aluminum industry and draw a bright red line against China’s continuing circumvention of the rules of global trade. Doing so will demonstrate to voters across the country that our leadership in Washington can be counted on to hold China accountable to the rules that allow U.S. workers to compete fairly.  

Democrat Mary Landrieu represents Louisiana in the United States Senate.