Office of the United States Trade Representative


Steel Tariffs - The Big Picture For Small Business
By: Gregory Walters, Director of Small Business Affairs, Office of the U.S. Trade Representative 12/10/2003

Today, I signed a proclamation ending the temporary steel safeguard measures I put in place in March 2002. Prior to that time, steel prices were at 20-year lows, and the U.S. International Trade Commission found that a surge in imports to the U.S. market was causing serious injury to our domestic steel industry. I took action to give the industry a chance to adjust to the surge in foreign imports and to give relief to the workers and communities that depend on steel for their jobs and livelihoods. These safeguard measures have now achieved their purpose, and as a result of changed economic circumstances it is time to lift them.”     
                       - President George W. Bush,
Dec. 4, 2003

In March 2002, after a 9-month investigation, the independent US International Trade Commission found that 10 steel industry products had been injured by a surge in imports that warranted relief. Based on that finding, the President decided that America=s steel industry needed help.  The President imposed temporary safeguards lasting for a maximum of three years.  These safeguards consisted principally of tariffs ranging from 8 to 30 percent on the ten categories of steel products identified by the ITC.   The safeguards were to have a midterm review to account for changes in circumstances and to measure their effectiveness in resuscitating this struggling, but important industry for our national security. 

In order to minimize the impact of these tariffs on U.S. consumers and manufacturers, some steel products were excluded.  Additionally, exports from our free trade partners and most exports from developing countries were excluded.

In September of this year, the ITC provided its mid-term assessment.  In its report, the ITC found that the safeguards worked.  It also concluded that the steel industry today is much stronger than it was before the safeguards, that the economic necessity for the safeguards has changed, and that the safeguards now impose some additional costs to consumers and manufacturers which outweigh their benefits.

In the first 21 months of the safeguard, the benefits the industry outweighed the marginal costs to consumers and manufactures.  The ITC found this no longer to be the case.  Having achieved its purpose, the President removed the steel tariffs on December 4th.

Now, with the domestic steel industry in a healthier position, small U.S. manufacturers have an opportunity to reinvigorate and expand their production with U.S. made steel.  With the renewed and dynamically competitive U.S. steel industry, prices of domestically made steel are competitive with foreign steel creating a new era where “Made in America” does not just mean assembled in the U.S. but composed of U.S. made steel.

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