With sparks flying from a cauldron of controversy, thousands of union steelworkers descended on Washington, D.C., Feb. 28 to lobby President George W. Bush for high tariffs on imported steel. At press time, the White House was expected to make its "delicate" decision on the matter March 6, but observers felt the Administration's course was still far from clear.
On one side, domestic steelmakers have long argued that cheap imports have been decimating U.S. steel-making capacity, causing layoffs in the tens of thousands and even some bankruptcies. They also point to President Bush's campaign promises in 2000 to be the industry's ally, as well as post-Sept. 11 national security concerns to make the nation more self-reliant.With that in mind, they had asked for tariffs as high as 40 percent on imports.
Opposed are large steel consumers and pro-trade representatives both inside and outside government. For his part, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan weighed in on the matter Feb. 27 in his semiannual appearance before Congress. He told lawmakers that higher steel prices for imports could hurt both the nation's "international trade posture," as well as domestic consumers, more than they would help U.S. steelmakers. Jobs saved in that one industry, he argued, would be more than offset by jobs lost elsewhere in the economy.
As Greenspan was testifying, union steel workers in Cleveland were rejoicing at the news that bankrupt local giant LTV Corp. had finally chosen a buyer for its assets and would likely reopen a number of idled mills this year, enough to put as many as 1,400 laid-off employees back to work. On Feb. 27, LTV announced that it had selected WL Ross & Co., New York City, as "the best and highest bidder" for its assets. On Feb. 28, LTV submitted the details of Ross's estimated $327 million bid to U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Cleveland for review. If approved, Ross has said that it plans to produce 4 million tons of flat-rolled steel in 2002. BDC