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JUNE 24, 1999  6:07 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:
Senator Paul Wellstone
Jim Farrell or Andrew McDonald 202/224-8440
Commerce Department Announces Steel Imports Up 30% Two Days After Announcing Steel Crisis 'Over'; Wellstone Calls Development `Disastrous' for Steelworkers & Their Families
 
WASHINGTON - June 24 - Two days after the Senate defeated a measure to consider restricting the illegal dumping of cheap foreign steel in the U.S., the Commerce Department announced today that steel imports jumped 30% in May. The Senate rejected the steel quota measure largely in response to Clinton administration assertions that imports were headed down, and the steel crisis `over'. Senator Paul Wellstone called the news "disastrous" for steelworkers and their families, and vowed to continue the fight to bring relief to struggling workers.

"I think our side lost that vote mainly because the White House, using import data from the month of April, convinced a lot of members that the steel crisis was over. Two days later we find out that the steel crisis is not over, after all. Most of that increase comes from imports of various kinds of semifinished steel, the very products that our taconite mines in Minnesota compete against. Imports of blooms, billets, and slabs are up a whopping 122 percent!," Wellstone said.

"This is a disaster. It's a disaster for the men and women who have already lost their jobs, and may now never get them back. It's a disaster for the workers whose jobs are hanging by a thread. It's a disaster for their husbands, wives, and children. For them, this steel crisis is definitely not over. If anything, it's getting worse.

"So the question is, what next? The Administration succeeded in defeating the Rockefeller bill, but what does it propose? Because we cannot simply give up on our steel industry. We cannot give up on iron ore mining in this country. We have to do something.

"I was troubled by some of the arguments made in Tuesday's Senate debate and in newspaper opinion pieces, because they seemed to be suggesting exactly that. They seemed to be suggesting that this extraordinary surge of dumped imports is actually good for the economy, and therefore putting a stop to it would be bad. They seemed to be saying that stopping this surge of illegally dumped imports would raise prices to their pre-crisis levels, and we don't want to do that," Wellstone said.

Secretary of Commerce William Daley led a vigorous lobbying against the measure, citing a recent decline in steel imports. The Clinton Administration had said it opposed the Rockefeller/Wellstone steel quota bill partly because it would violate U.S. obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and repeatedly had threatened to veto the measure.

Quota relief, however, is already available under existing trade statutes and the WTO. U.S. trade laws and the WTO recognize the legitimate need of every country to prevent extraordinary import surges such as this one from destroying its industrial infrastructure and eliminating thousands of jobs. Under a trade law called Section 201, the Administration could limit imports if chose to. Wellstone maintains that the problem is not that limiting imports would break the rules, but that the Administration doesn't want to limit imports. He pledged to continue to press for relief for the steel industry.

"We must do something. The steel crisis is not over. The May import numbers prove it. So my question to those who opposed the Rockefeller bill is, what do you propose we do now?" Wellstone asked.

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