24, 1999 6:07 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jim Farrell or Andrew McDonald 202/224-8440
Department Announces Steel Imports Up 30% Two Days After Announcing Steel Crisis
'Over'; Wellstone Calls Development `Disastrous' for Steelworkers & Their Families
- 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
"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
"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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