March 12, 2001
U.S. Steel Users Need Imports to be Competive
The Plain Dealer's March 11 editorial, "Reviving Steel," identifies the myriad causes of the domestic steel industry's problems, and calls for government help in providing "some respite from bargain-basement competition." Unfortunately, this proposed "respite" would include restrictions on imported steel.
Everyone favors a strong and vigorously competitive American steel industry. But your editorial ignores the larger consequences of such a "respite."
It doesn't consider the impact of restricting steel imports on U.S. steel-consuming industries that must depend on imported steel because domestic producers do not make enough steel or the right kinds of steel to supply the demand. Steel-using manufacturers must compete in global markets, and they need an adequate supply of steel that is world-competitive in quality and price. Imports are not an option. They are a necessity.
There are more than 50 American workers in steel-consuming industries for every steelworker-industries such as heavy equipment, industrial machinery, construction, transportation equipment and metalforming. Many thousands of these workers live and work in the Cleveland area. Their jobs often depend on imported steel.
While a "respite" is a politically expedient and seemingly logical proposal at first glance, the result can cause far greater harm than good to our overall economy. More than three decades of steel import protection shows that restricting steel imports does not cure the steel industry's internal structural weaknesses, nor does it make steel producers more efficient, productive, or competitive.
Many knowledgeable observers and analysts suggest that the ultimate answer to the problem is consolidation, not depriving steel-using industries and American consumers of the benefits of world-competitive steel.
Jon E. Jenson
5700 Brookside Road
Independence, OH 44131
Jon Jenson is President Emeritus of the Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) and Chairman of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC), a coalition of companies and organizations committed to promoting a trade arena where U.S. consuming industries and their workers have access to global markets for raw materials and other imports that enhance the international competitiveness of U.S. firms.