PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — One of the steel industry’s most important trade conferences is meeting in Pittsburgh this week.

“It’s the world’s largest technology conference for steel manufacturing,” Ron Ashburn, executive director of the Association for Iron & Steel Technology based in Warrendale, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

Ashburn says the AIST hosts this annual event.

“We’ve got about 8,000 people [here], about 45 countries are represented. We have the world’s largest technical programs,” he said. “Over 500 presentations are given by experts all over the world about how to advance the sustainability for steel manufacturing, and we also have the world’s largest annual steel exhibit.”

The exhibit proves the breadth of the conference.

If you doubt the importance of the steel industry to the economy, take a look at the exhibits. There are 542 exhibitors here at the convention center. They are the suppliers of products, equipment, and technology to the steel industry.

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One highlight of the conference was the Town Hall Forum where over 1,100 people heard six senior steel executives say, to a person, that China was waging war against American steel.

China makes about half the world’s steel and because it can’t use all that steel in its own country, it tries to dump Chinese steel, illegally say U.S. steelmakers, into the U.S. to wipe out American steel companies.

Ashburn says, unless Americans of all political stripes speak out and get U.S. officials to act against unfair trade practices, the domestic steel industry is at risk.

“Just like we’ve lost other industries like the tire industry, or the furniture industry, or the textile industry. Those are gone. Steel won’t go. We’re here for the fight, and we’re going to win,” Ashburn said.