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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 06:56 GMT
US steel workers stage mass protest
Steel protestors
Thousands of steel workers joined the rally
Thousands of angry steel workers have protested outside the White House.

The workers were urging President George W. Bush to impose fierce tariffs on imports of foreign steel.

The US steel industry has been struggling to compete against much cheaper steel imported from abroad.

But accepting the proposals of the US International Trade Commission risks sparking a bitter trade war.

No win situation

As the rally raged outside, Mr Bush discussed the problem with 19 members of Congress from steel-producing states.

The decision whether to impose the tariffs - and risk a trade war - is a tough one for Mr Bush both politically and economically.

A decision to impose the punishing tariffs of up to 40% is sure to upset some of the US' key trading partners.

The EU is threatening to file a complaint with the World Trade Organisation if the tariffs are imposed.

And Japan and Brazil have said they would retaliate by imposing similar penalties on American products.

Voter power

But failure to take action will anger workers - and voters - in steel-making states.

Thousands of workers have already lost their jobs after numerous US steel firms have gone bust over the last few years.

Speaking informally after the meeting, several senators were optimistic that the tariffs would be imposed.

"I am praying that the president will do this and put American workers first by taking this action," said Merica Petrella of Steubenville, Ohio.

Mr Bush has until next Wednesday to decide whether to accept or reject the proposals.

Bob Jones, Steel Editor, Metal Bulletin
"For the last 2 or 3 years the US steel industry has been in severe crisis"
See also:

07 Jun 01 | Business
Slowdown fuels US steel aid
27 Dec 00 | Business
EU-US trade dispute looms
26 Nov 00 | Business
US faces $4bn trade threat
05 Jun 01 | Business
Bush seeks steel probe
06 Jun 01 | Business
EU opens attack on US steel probe
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