Bush Got Tough by Raising Steel Tariffs
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Bruce Bartlett's March 3 Commentary column, "On a slippery tariff slope," failed to address key points in the debate over the imposition of tariffs on steel imports. Mr. Bartlett says nothing about the violation of American trade laws by many of the nations facing increased tariffs. He attacks the president's decision from a political perspective, calling it the "greatest mistake of his presidency," and does not discuss the real issues.
First, the International Trade Commission (ITC) conducted an exhaustive investigation to determine if unfairly traded steel imports caused injury to the domestic steel industry. The commissioners' vote was unanimous (6-0) that unfairly traded imports had caused injury. Our trade laws were violated repeatedly by our trading partners, who were at least partially responsible for the bankruptcy of more than 30 steel companies in the past few years.
Second, has Mr. Bartlett looked at the balance of trade lately? In 2000, the United States had a trade deficit of $375.7 billion, or 3.8 percent of the gross domestic product (the highest percentage of GDP ever). In 2001, a recession year in U.S. manufacturing, the deficit dropped to $346.3 billion (3.4 percent of the GDP). How many of those goods representing the trade deficit entered the United States in violation of our trade laws? I suspect a great many.
Third, many of our trading partners manipulate their currencies to maintain an advantage in trade with the United States. Our dollar remains strong in relation to those currencies, thus putting American-made products at a huge cost disadvantage. With very few exceptions, exporting American-made steel simply isn't possible. In other words, foreign markets are closed, while our market remains wide open. Some partnership.
Fourth, the U.S. steel industry must comply with U.S. environmental and safety laws. This is a good thing, but it does not come without substantial cost to steel makers. Consider the cost of the Environmental Protection Agency's clean air and water regulations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's rules concerning safety in the workplace. …