Bush cuts tariffs on more steel imports

WASHINGTON President George W. Bush announced Aug. 22 that he would exclude another 178 imported steel product categories from the high protective tariffs that his administration had imposed in March (April, pg. 1). The latest exclusions mean that almost one-quarter of the tonnage to which the tariffs originally applied have been exempted by the president since his March decision, according to statistics

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush announced Aug. 22 that he would exclude another 178 imported steel product categories from the high protective tariffs that his administration had imposed in March (April, pg. 1).

The latest exclusions mean that almost one-quarter of the tonnage to which the tariffs originally applied have been exempted by the president since his March decision, according to statistics provided by the administration. The total now comes to 3.2 metric tons of imported steel and covers 727 exemptions from tariffs that initially had ranged from 8% to 30%.

Foreign trading partners that produce steel and domestic manufacturers that make products from steel applauded Bush’s most recent announcement. Some steel-consuming companies noted, however, that the exemptions don’t go far enough to address rising prices and shortages of some steel products.

On the other hand, the August announcement angered U.S. steel producers and union steel workers who had sought the tariffs to protect the domestic industry from the imports being sold here at below-market prices. Domestic steel companies filed objections to 104 of the 178 exemptions of products, which include plate, hot-rolled, cold-rolled, corrosion-resistant, tin mill and stainless.

“The decision to exclude these products was based upon a full consideration of information submitted by U.S. steel consumers, U.S. steel producers and foreign steel producers,” according to a joint statement from the U.S. Commerce Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

“This is part of the administration’s objective of providing relief only where needed in the steel industry and to avoid burdening U.S. steel consumers.”

The administration also announced that the 178 product categories would be the last group of products exempted from the tariffs in 2002. In November, U.S. steel consumers will be allowed to make new requests to exempt other steel categories. Reviews of those products should be completed in March 2003.

In a related development, the U.S. Trade Commission voted Aug. 27 against imposing additional anti-dumping duties on cold-rolled steel imported from Australia, India, Japan, Sweden and Thailand. About 20 countries have been required since May to pay an additional 2% to 154% deposit for allegedly selling certain cold-rolled steel products below fair-market value or the cost of production. The duties on these products would have been levied in addition to the tariffs of 8% to 30% for three years ordered by the administration in March.