Dec. 19 Is Key Date For Steel

By John S. McClenahen On Dec. 19, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) is slated to tell President George W. Bush what he should do about steel imports. On Oct. 22, the six-member ITC ruled that 12 of 33 categories of steel -- including slabs, plates, hot-rolled and cold-rolled -- are being imported in such large quantities that they threaten serious harm to the U.S. steel industry. For those dozen categories of steel -- plus four more on which the ITC was evenly divided -- Bush will have the final decision on whether to provide trade relief and what form -- including U.S. quotas on imported steel -- it should take. His decisions, which are expected in early 2002, will affect 27 million tons of steel valued at $10.7 billion. Even though details of the ITC's findings are yet to be released, the 15-nation European Union (EU) is disputing the panel's conclusions. "If the U.S. decides to close its market as a result of this investigation, it should be in no doubt that we will take this matter up in the WTO [World Trade Organization]," warns Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner. "Shifting responsibility for the problems facing the U.S. steel industry onto the rest of the world by imposing protectionist measures will only make matters worse."

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