July 9, 2002
U.S. steel companies weigh strategies
By PAUL M. KRAWZAK
Copley Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON — U.S. steel companies will tell federal officials in September what they are doing to become more globally
competitive while temporarily higher steel tariffs protect them from imports.
To help the domestic steel industry, President Bush in March ordered tariffs increased by up to 30 percent for up to three years. At the time, he said he expected U.S. steel makers to use the breathing space, the tariffs provided to restructure and become more globally competitive.
In September, executives of the largest steel companies will meet individually with federal officials to discuss their plans. The
meetings will be separate to reduce the companies’ fears that they might disclose proprietary information to their competitors.
Executives from some of the steel companies and top government officials agreed on the meetings during a get-together Monday.
Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick were at the meeting, along with executives from
U.S. Steel, Bethlehem Steel, Nucor, AK Steel, Steel Dynamics and Weirton Steel.
“We didn’t get into any plans that individual companies are doing that still are not public,” U.S. Steel Chief Executive Officer Thomas
Usher said. “But we did indicate there were things going on behind the scenes that we would be in a better position to talk about in
Federal officials said the meetings would help the government come up with benchmarks to evaluate whether steel companies are
making good use of the temporary protection from imports.
“Benchmarks depend on what they come forward with in September,” said a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “When we see their business strategies, it will be much easier to track whether in fact they’re implementing the strategy.”
Evans and Zoellick have asked the largest and the most troubled steel companies to report to the government on their restructuring
Smaller, healthier companies such as Timken Co., a specialty steel maker based in Canton, might not be involved.
Timken spokesman Jason Saragian said he knew of no plans for the company to meet with government officials on the subject.
“Continuous improvement has always been a key here at Timken,” he added. “That’s essential to remaining globally competitive.” In
recent years, the company has invested more than $120 million in its steel-making facilities.
The government and steel companies agreed Monday that the tariffs are helping the industry. The price of flat rolled steel, used in
automobiles, appliances and other products, has been rising. The price is still low compared to the cost of that steel during the
previous 20 years.