Bush eliminates steel tariffs; Northland responds
On a sunny day in September, steel workers and politicians rallied in Duluth, urging President Bush to stay the course on steel tariffs. They saw the tariffs as a possible life raft for the sinking steel industry, as well as the future of taconit...
On a sunny day in September, steel workers and politicians rallied in Duluth, urging President Bush to stay the course on steel tariffs.
They saw the tariffs as a possible life raft for the sinking steel industry, as well as the future of taconite.
But this week, the tariffs were lifted in the face of international trade pressure. The move brought immediate response from politicians and the industry.
The tariffs, enacted after heavy lobbying by labor and the steel industry, were to run through Mach 2005.
Congressman Jim Oberstar fired the first shot, blasting Bush for abandoning domestic steel producers.
"The steel industry is still reeling from bankruptcies and the loss of thousands of jobs, which has left thousands of steelworker retirees with reduced pensions," Oberstar said. "I am deeply disappointed that President Bush bowed to pressure from the European Union and abandoned the commitment he made to the domestic steel industry.
"The U.S. Steel industry still confronts serious issues, including massive global overcapacity and many foreign subsidies that encourage this overcapacity; yet, President Bush decided not to give the steel industry more time to recover."
Sen. Norm Coleman had a different take. "I am very disappointed with the announcement on Section 201 steel tariffs," said Coleman. " I believe the EU's threat of retaliation is illegal."
But Coleman said that over the last year and a half, the tariffs have helped the U.S. steel industry get back on its feet. He pledged to find additional ways to enhance the industry's competitive position.
Officials of the United States Steel Corporation expressed disappointment with the action.
"The President made the right decision last March when he put these tariffs in place," said Thomas J. Usher, chairman and CEO of U.S. Steel. "After 50 years of foreign government subsidies and other market distortions, the domestic industry needed some breathing room safe from import surges."
He said the decision will be particularly hard on the weaker companies.
The United Steelworkers of America labeled the decision as "a sorry betrayal of American steelworkers and steel communities."
"In his rush to appease the Europeans and Japanese," said USWA President Leo W. Gerard, "Mr. Bush willfully ignored the fact that damage to the American steel industry and American steel communities continues to this day, even with the tariffs in place."
But in his statement on his decision, Bush said the tariffs had achieved their purpose and it was time to lift them.
"As a result (of the tariffs) U.S. Steel companies are now once again well-positioned to compete both at home and globally," said the president.