295 more steel products exempted

List of tariff-free imports increases to 995

March 22, 2003|By BLOOMBERG NEWS

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration exempted yesterday 295 steel products from import tariffs levied a year ago, including wine-barrel strips for Illinois Tool Works Inc. and zinc-coated sheets that Sharp Corp. uses to make microwave ovens.

The exclusions, which producers estimate represent 360,000 tons of imports, bring to 995 the products exempted from duties that are as high as 24 percent.

A quarter of the 13 million tons of steel imports originally covered by the tariffs imposed by President Bush in March last year had been exempted in subsequent months, according to the Commerce Department.

Representatives of steel producers such as Nucor Corp. and U.S. Steel Corp. said they didn't object to the exemptions, as they had to previous decisions, because the products listed yesterday for the most part don't threaten the domestic industry.

"The system worked this time," said Thomas A. Danjczek, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, which represents Nucor and other companies that make steel from scrap.

Even with the tariffs, which had been as high as 30 percent, steel imports increased 4.8 percent last year, to $12.1 billion, according to the Census Bureau.

The administration imposed the tariffs to give hard-pressed domestic companies "breathing space," to restructure, said Commerce Department Undersecretary Grant D. Aldonas.

Since then, Nucor and U.S. Steel have bought struggling rivals. The sale of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s assets to International Steel Group of Cleveland is awaiting bankruptcy court approval.

Yesterday's exemptions were granted because those products "are not currently available in sufficient quantities from U.S. producers," a joint statement from the Commerce Department and the U.S. Trade Representative's office said.

The exemptions include hot-rolled, cold-rolled and plate products, stainless steel and corrosion-resistant materials, the statement said.

In addition to Sharp and Illinois Tool Works, companies that received exemptions included DaimlerChrysler AG, the world's No. 5 automaker; York International Corp., a maker of heating and air-conditioning equipment; and Johnson Controls Inc., the world's second-largest maker of automobile seats.

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