• Kyodo

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U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick on Friday asked the International Trade Commission to launch an investigation into whether increased imports from Japan and other countries are hurting the U.S. steel industry.

The investigation under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act could result in emergency measures, such as imposing higher tariffs or import quotas on steel imports. The move was initiated by President George W. Bush.

“The Bush administration is committed to the effective use of statutory safeguards, consistent with WTO (World Trade Organization) rules, when American producers face serious injury due to imports,” Zoellick said in a letter to the ITC, an independent federal agency.

“The U.S. steel industry has been affected by a 50-year legacy of foreign government intervention in the market and direct financial support of their steel industries. The result has been significant excess capacity, inefficient production, and a glut of steel on world markets,” Zoellick said.

The USTR’s request covers all four steel categories — flat products, long products, pipe and tube, and stainless steel and alloy tool steel products.

Bush ordered the USTR June 5 to request a Section 201 investigation in response to the U.S. steel industry’s plea for government relief.

Steel industry and labor union leaders have lobbied for the administration to introduce emergency import restrictions under the trade provision to avert a revival of the 1998 steel crisis.

The U.S. government imposed punitive tariffs on certain categories of steel imports from Japan, South Korea, Russia and other countries after surging imports hit the domestic industry in 1998.

Section 201 empowers the president to restrict imports that the ITC deems a threat to the domestic industry.

Once the ITC formally initiates its investigation, it has 180 days to report its findings to the president.

If the ITC makes an affirmative determination, the president has 60 days to determine the appropriate remedy.

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