Helping Automakers, U.S. Eases Steel Import Duties From Four Countries

No duties on corrosion-resistant carbon steel from Australia, Canada, France and Japan.

The quasi-judicial U.S. International Trade Commission on Dec. 14 ended controversial import duties on a type of steel used extensively in the auto industry, in a boost for car manufacturers. The panel voted to scrap duties on corrosion-resistant carbon steel from Australia, Canada, France and Japan in place since 1993. The panel left the duties in place for imports from Germany and South Korea.

Auto manufacturers, which had been campaigning to lift the duties, applauded the move. Six auto groups with manufacturing in the U.S. -- DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota -- had joined together for the first time as a group in a trade case to urge revocation of the duties "because of their serious concern regarding access to, and availability of competitively priced steel," according to a joint statement.

"We are pleased that the ITC revoked most of the duties," said Stephen Biegun, vice president for international governmental affairs at Ford in the statement from the six firms. "All of these duties are outdated and hurt American manufacturing competitiveness and U.S. jobs while needlessly helping a steel industry that is now profitable and healthy."

The duties were imposed in 1993 to protect U.S. steelmakers from cheaper imports of corrosion-resistant steel from the six countries. The duties were renewed in 2000 and the ITC will review those in place on Germany and South Korea in 2011.

U.S. steelmakers and unions had banded together to take out full-page newspaper advertisements demanding that the ITC renew the duties. "Don't let America's steelworkers get run over by the auto companies," the ad stated.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

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