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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Agency Urged to Stop Tariffs

WASHINGTON -- Representatives for Japan, Russia and Brazil are pleading with an independent government agency to oppose punitive tariffs under consideration by the Clinton administration.

During a rare public appearance, the representatives argued that factors beyond the countries' control were responsible for last year's surge in steel imports to the United States, an increase blamed for thousands of U.S. layoffs.

Anne Krueger, a Stanford University economics professor who testified on behalf of the foreign countries, said the financial crisis abroad has shown signs of easing. That crisis contributed to the surge in imports by lowering demand for the product there.

"The resumption of more normal conditions in Asia, the rest of the world and the U.S. means that conditions are very different now, and it cannot be concluded there is a threat to American steel producers based on what happened then,'' she said.

The U.S. International Trade Commission, a fact-finding body that is independent from President Bill Clinton's administration, is considering whether the import surge has hurt or threatens to injure the domestic industry.

That finding is a major factor in determining whether the administration will impose steel tariffs against Japan, Russia and Brazil. Rulings are due this summer.

The Commerce Department ruled last week that Japan has illegally dumped a core steel product, hot-rolled carbon steel, in U.S. markets at prices below production costs or home-market prices. The department earlier found evidence of dumping by Russia and Brazil and expects final rulings this summer.

Russia may be able to avoid tariffs if that country finalizes an agreement with the United States to voluntarily curb shipments. Curtis Barnette, chairman and chief executive of Bethlehem Steel Corp., reiterated his opposition to the deal and threatened to challenge the agreement in federal court and seek legislative changes.

"It will not stop the imports and is not in the public interest,'' Barnette told the trade commission. "We will oppose it with all the resources we have available.''

Meanwhile, the Clinton administration's top trade officials said at a separate forum that the president's efforts to combat unfair steel shipments from Japan and other countries are showing dramatic results and will take the steam out of a congressional drive to limit steel imports.

In March, the House of Representatives voted 289-141 for legislation that would impose global quotas on steel shipments into the United States. The proposal is pending in the Senate.