By Tonya Vinas A group of U.S.-based steel companies has asked the Bush administration to extend steel tariffs imposed last spring to 31 countries now exempt. Bush enacted the tariffs, sometimes called Section 201 tariffs, of as much as 30% on imported steel products in response to manufacturers' complaints about the "dumping" of lower-priced steel on the U.S. market. While welcomed by steel manufacturers, the tariffs included more exemptions than industry leaders would have liked. According to the coalition of Weirton Steel Corp., Nucor Corp., Gallatin Steel Co., IPSCO Steel Inc., Steel Dynamics Inc., WCI Steel Inc. and Rouge Steel Co., the exempt companies are benefiting from the tariffs while hurting U.S. steel companies. "Shortly after President Bush enacted the three-year tariff program, steel imports from those countries began to increase," says John H. Walker, Weirton Steel president and CEO. "In short, they are taking advantage of the slow-down in imports from countries initially affected by the tariffs last March. Much of the imports from the non-tariff countries are being sold well below domestic prices." According the coalition, the 30 exempt developing countries imported 1.2 million tons of steel into the United States in 2001. Through Oct. 2002, the most recent data available, imports from these countries jumped to 1.6 million tons. Mexico, the other exempt country, had a 12% increase of imported flat rolled steel since March 2002. The companies sent a letter of complaint to Commerce Secretary Donald Evans and U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick last week and are requesting a meeting to discuss the issue.