The Canton Repository
Steel industry probe gains support
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — A federal investigation into steel imports has the potential to benefit most U.S. steel
producers, industry officials who have reviewed an outline of the probe said Monday.
That’s because the investigation will examine the impact of a broad array of steel imports on American steel
makers. If those imports are found to be causing serious damage to the domestic industry, President Bush
will have the authority to order temporary cuts in imports.
Eighteen American steel makers have filed for bankruptcy protection since 1998, and many of them have
blamed surging imports in 1998 and last year.
Including any given imported steel product in the investigation means there is the potential to discover it is
causing problems for the domestic industry. That in turn opens the possibility that import limits would be
placed on that product, reducing competition for American companies that make a similar product.
Plans for the probe, revealed in a letter from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Friday, are
drawing support from both management and labor. Zoellick’s letter lays out the scope of the investigation for
the U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency, which will conduct the study and
report back to Bush.
Leo W. Gerard, president of the U.S. Steelworkers of America, said the investigation is “very broad and
all-encompassing” in its coverage of steel products.
Another authority within the industry said the probe will look at the impact of almost all steel imports, with
several exceptions. It will not look at steel wire rod and line pipe imports, which already are being limited
after earlier federal investigations into their impact on U.S. business. Noncontroversial imports that failed to
draw a protest from American companies also were not included in the investigation.
Despite a lobbying effort from the union, the administration decided against examining the effect of imports
of coke, pig iron and iron ore, key components in steel production.
While the union is disappointed with the exclusion of those imports from the probe, Gerard said, “I think
there were some compromises the administration made with various groups to try to get a comprehensive
Duane R. Dunham, chairman of the American Iron and Steel Institute, a steel industry association, said a
period during which imports are limited is “a necessary pre-condition for facilitating industry recovery and
addressing long-term structural problems, in particular the excess steel capacity offshore and foreign
market-distorting practices, which are the root cause of the current crisis.”
Individual steel companies were poring over Zoellick’s letter to see what impact the probe could have on
Because nails and other wire products are included, any possible reductions in those imports would help
Dallas-based Keystone Consolidated Industries, whose main plant is in Bartonville, Ill.
Robert W. Singer, president and chief executive officer of Keystone, said import curbs would enable the
company to sell more nails and wire at higher prices. The firm has lost money the past two years, he said.
Officials at the Timken Co. and Republic Technologies International had not finished their analyses by the
end of the day. LTV Corp. did not return phone calls.
The union and the steel institute disagree on one aspect of the investigation — how to treat steel imports
from Canada and Mexico. The institute, representing steel companies throughout North America, “will
continue to press for the exclusion of NAFTA steel imports from 201 relief,” said Andrew G. Sharkey III,
president and chief executive officer of the organization.
The union, which represents workers in Canada and the United States but not Mexico, “will be arguing like
crazy that Mexico should be included in the remedy but Canada should not be,” Gerard said.
“Canada and the U.S. are integrated in many ways,” he explained, adding that steel worker salaries are
competitive in the two nations. In Mexico, by contrast, steel workers are “being exploited as badly in some
cases as Chinese and Russian steel workers,” he said.
The trade commission typically holds a maximum of two public hearings as part of its investigation, which
can take up to four months. But Gerard said he will ask the agency to schedule field hearings in
steel-producing areas, possibly including Cleveland and Steubenville; Gary and East Chicago, Ind.; Granite
City, Ill.; and West Virginia.
“We don’t want to delay or cause an undue slowdown” in the probe, he said. “But it’s important in
determining the magnitude of the injury to also see individuals and communities that are being injured.”