Monday, December 01, 2003

Rights and Reason: President To Drop Tariffs On Steel

This Washington Post reports it's the end of the line for steel tariffs:

The Bush administration has decided to repeal most of its 20-month-old tariffs on imported steel to head off a trade war that would have included foreign retaliation against products exported from politically crucial states, administration and industry sources said yesterday.

The officials would not say when President Bush will announce the decision but said it is likely to be this week. The officials said they had to allow for the possibility that he would make some change in the plan, but a source close to the White House said it was "all but set in stone."

European countries had vowed to respond to the tariffs, which were ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization, by imposing sanctions on up to $2.2 billion in exports from the United States, beginning as soon as Dec. 15. Japan issued a similar threat Wednesday. The sources said Bush's aides concluded they could not run the risk that the European Union would carry out its threat to impose sanctions on orange juice and other citrus products from Florida, motorcycles, farm machinery, textiles, shoes, and other products.

Bush advisers said they were aware the reversal could produce a backlash against him in several steel-producing states of the Rust Belt -- including Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. That arc of states has been hit severely by losses in manufacturing jobs and will be among the most closely contested in his reelection race.

The sources said that Bush's aides agonized over the options to present to the president and that they considered it one of the diciest political calculations of this term. A source involved in the negotiations said White House aides looked for some step short of a full repeal that would satisfy the European Union but concluded that it was "technically possible but practically impossible."
This decision comes about 20 months too late. The steel tariffs were yet another sacrifice of the rights of businessmen in the name of the Republican’s short term political expediency.

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