September 18, 2001
State officials testify against steel imports
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — A break from steel imports is important for national security as well as the domestic steel industry, Ohio officials told the U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday.
“I would like to point out that America’s entire steel industry is in jeopardy, and it would be a grave risk to be entirely dependent on
other nations for a commodity that is so essential to our economy and our military capability,” Ohio Gov. Bob Taft said.
Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, who also favors import curbs, argued that last week’s terrorist attacks point up the need for a strong domestic steel industry.
“We have to make a decision for our national security,” he said.
Supporters and opponents of trade restrictions lined up against each other as the commission kicked off two weeks of hearings as
part of its investigation into steel imports.
President Bush asked the commission in June to determine if a surge of low-priced steel imports that began in 1998 has harmed
American steel makers. Bush has the authority to order temporary import limits or other relief if the commission determines that
imports have caused injury.
Among those who favor sanctions, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Leo W. Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers of
America, warned that a healthy domestic steel industry is needed to provide the raw materials for national defense.
Opponents, however, retorted that the commission’s probe has nothing to do with national security.
“This is not about national security, this is not about what happened last week,” said attorney William H. Barringer, who explained that the commission’s job is to determine if imports have caused substantial injury.
Barringer, who represents foreign steel makers in Brazil and Japan, said there’s no evidence of import-caused harm.
During the 18 months before the investigation began, steel imports in 22 of 33 product categories actually fell, he said.
“The primary problem for domestic producers is low prices,” he said. “If prices have not recovered as imports have declined and
continue to decline, some other dynamic must be affecting the market.”
Between July 2001 and July 2000, overall steel imports fell by a third to 1.9 million tons, the U.S. Commerce Department reported.
Those who argue for curbs say that even though imports have fallen recently, the earlier surge in cheap foreign steel has continued
to cause damage.
“Three years ago, Ohio’s steel manufacturers employed over 35,000 of Ohio’s citizens and contributed $8.77 billion to Ohio’s
economy,” Taft said. “But in just the past year alone, Ohio’s steel industry has lost 10 percent of its work force.”
Ney said imports have pushed steel prices to their lowest levels in 20 years.
“The injuries caused by overwhelming imports have occurred despite corporate restructuring, facility modernization, capacity
reductions and an amazingly productive work force,” he said.
Since 1980, the United States has lost 300,000 steel jobs, he added.
Attorney Richard O. Cunningham, who represents opponents of import curbs, told the commission that while some steel companies
are hurting, others are fine.
“In quite a few categories (of products), you will find that the great majority of U.S. producers have performed well over the period,
such that they cannot be viewed as seriously injured,” he said