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UK PM's Article On US Steel Tariffs

PM article - Steel tariffs

In an article for the South Wales Evening Post concerning the US decision to impose tariffs on imported steel the Prime Minister said: 'We will not stand by and let America export its problems to us.'

The article was printed on the 7th March 2002 and has been reproduced in full below:

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Port Talbot now makes some of the best quality steel in one of the most productive plants in the world.

And this Government is not going to stand back and see this plant and its workforce damaged by unfair action from a country whose own steel firms have ducked the tough decisions needed to make it competitive.

As Evening Post readers know all too well, these tough decisions have meant a great deal of pain. The restructuring of the steel industry in Britain in recent years has cost tens of thousands of jobs.

Business and many families in South Wales, and across Britain, are still suffering badly from the decisions taken by Corus. The Government is determined to continue to work with these communities to tackle the real problems that remain.

But though I made clear my criticisms of the way Corus behaved, I also recognise that an industry's long-term future can only be secured if it can compete successfully in the global market.

Steel manufacturers across the world are having to face up to the cold fact of over-capacity and the difficult decisions that involves. Many European countries, for instance, have felt the same pain as we have experienced in Britain.


But in the United States, steel firms have put off these decisions and want to hide instead behind new high tariffs on imported steel.

I'm convinced this approach is unjustified, unfair, bad for the world economy, and, in the long-term, will fail to help the firms involved tackle their real problems.

As soon as we realised the possibility of new US tariffs being imposed, the Government - along with our European partners - lobbied hard at every level against the move.

We lost no time in pointing out to the US authorities that such action would be short-sighted and illegal under world trade rules.

These rules have been agreed internationally because countries have realised that no one, in the end, gains from imposing fresh barriers to free trade.

They drive up prices for business and consumers, restrict choice and cost jobs. Nor do they, in the long run, protect the industries and the people who work in them.

It's why the aim of the World Trade Organisation is to reduce barriers, not increase them - and why they have been given the powers to intervene if member countries try unfairly to restrict imports.

I can promise Evening Post readers that Britain's outright opposition to the American steel industry's demand for tariffs was made to the US Government - and that includes directly to President Bush by me.

I informed President Bush personally, by letter and by phone, about Britain's hostility to any move to restrict unfairly steel imports.

I also told him, that if the US did impose tariffs, Britain and the EU would have no choice but to ask the WTO to declare the move illegal. That now appears to be the inevitable result of US Government action this week.

We are completely confident that the WTO will find against the US and order them to lift the tariffs. But, of course, such a ruling will take time.

In the meantime, we have to take steps to protect our own steel industry and the people who make these plants among the most productive in the world

So we are now looking urgently, with our European partners, at the action we can take.

The threat is not just the extra costs on our steel exports to the United States but also from steel turned away from America being diverted to Britain and Europe. We will, I promise, take the necessary action to safeguard our steel industry.

I am bitterly disappointed that the US has gone ahead with these unjustified tariffs.

No one gains from such disputes. And I hope, even at this late stage, that the US Government will reconsider its decision and find other ways of helping their own steel industry without discriminatory trade barriers.

I think that everyone accepts there are real problems in the American steel industry just as we have problems around the world with steel over-capacity and unfair subsidies.

But the way to tackle this is through international talks not by one country, whoever they are, trying to put up unfair barriers to imports. We will not stand by and let America export its problems to us.


ENDS

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