Machine Tool Rule Could Limit Steel Imports

Under pressure from the U.S. steel industry and the United Steelworkers of America, the Clinton administration could turn to so-called voluntary restraint agreements (VRAs) to slow the flow of foreign steel into the U.S. If it opts for VRAs -- and the decision is far from certain and at least a month away -- the White House would be employing a trade tool the Reagan and Bush administrations used to benefit domestic machine-tool producers, beginning more than a decade ago. In 1987, under pressure from the U.S., Japan and Taiwan not-so-voluntarily agreed to limit their exports of machine tools to the U.S. for five years. In 1992 the Bush administration extended the agreement with Taiwan, with the restraints ending in 1993, the first year of the Clinton administration. Significantly, it looks as if steel among basic U.S. industries is now going it alone with a bid for import relief. There's "no talk" among U.S. machine-tool builders for new VRAs, stresses an industry spokesperson.

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