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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 22:46 GMT
US steel data raises pressure for tariffs
rolled steel
Twenty five US steelmakers are operating under bankruptcy protection
Steel imports to the US have surged by more than one quarter, increasing pressure for tariffs to protect the country's ailing steelmakers.

Shipments from foreign steel firms hit 2.4 million tonnes last month, up from 1.9 million tonnes in September, and compared with a 2.1 million tonne figure for October last year.

The rise, which followed a series of import declines, has raised pressure on the US International Trade Commission to vote for import tariffs in a keenly-awaited ballot expected next week.

The commission was in June ordered by President George W Bush to probe the steel market, over concerns that some foreign firms were receiving unwarranted state aid, allowing them to undercut US steelmakers.

So-called "dumping" of cheap steel has been blamed by many observers for the plight of US steelmakers, 25 of which are operating under bankruptcy protection.

But many foreign governments, particularly in Asia, have warned the US against starting a trade war.

The concerns were echoed on Tuesday in a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which reproached Washington over its protectionist tendencies.

'Brutal efficiency'

Groups supporting action against imports have included unions and the American Iron and Steel Institute, a trade association which saw Tuesday's figures as further reason to support its cause.

"Compared to many offshore steel industries, market forces are working here with brutal efficiency," said Andrew Sharkey, the institute's president.

"A strong ITC tariff remedy recommendation will send a clear signal to offshore producers that the US will no longer be the world's steel dumping ground."

The ITC in October ruled that imports of 12 types of steel, accounting for 80% of steel imports, were causing "serious injury" to US firms.

Union leaders believe that import tariffs of 30-50% are needed to ensure the revival of domestic steelmakers.

'We need imports'

But steel users blamed the latest rise in imports on failure by manufacturers to meet demand.

"We need imports, not restrictions on imports," said David Phelps, president of the American Institute for International Steel, a trade association.

See also:

23 Oct 01 | Business
US steel ruling condemned
31 Aug 01 | Business
US steelmakers stoke trade war
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