Bush should cut his losses and revoke steel tariffs

Bob Tippee

US President George W. Bush has one way to escape a political mess he created in March 2002 by imposing tariffs as high as 30% on imported steel.

He can revoke the tariffs.

Doing so would alienate workers and managers in the struggling steel industry. And it would renege deals the administration made in Congress to win trade promotion authority in July 2002.

Bush should revoke the tariffs anyway.

He should accept whatever political losses he must in order to correct a mistake and prevent economic jeopardy.

His political losses will be much worse if a threatened dispute over the tariffs materializes and stalls economic recovery.

The World Trade Organization soon will decide whether to uphold its May repudiation of the steel protections.

If, as expected, the appellate ruling goes against the US, Bush will have to decide whether to defy the WTO, repeal the tariffs, or seek compromise.

Defying the WTO would be wrong because the tariffs are wrong. A compromise can't help.

The world needs a show of commitment to trade from a US administration so far alarmingly protectionist.

A US rebuke of the WTO would complicate the difficult challenge of reviving multilateral trade discussions after September's failure in Cancun, Mexico.

It also would invite retaliation. The European Union promises to impose sanctions totaling $6 billion if Bush doesn't revoke the steel tariffs and Congress doesn't end tax preferences for companies selling goods abroad.

The portion of those sanctions targeting the steel tariffs—totaling $2.2 billion—would hit Harley Davidson motorcycles, textile products from southeastern states, and Florida fruit products.

They're obviously designed to do maximum political damage. The likely timing couldn't be worse for Bush's quest for reelection.

More significant than the chance of higher prices for noisy motorbikes is the real potential for a trade war, the earliest signs of which would chill an economy just now regaining stride.

The steel tariffs failed to win Bush the support of the steelworker's union, which endorses the presidential campaign of Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.).

The president should wonder if they're worth risking his job.

(Author's e-mail: bobt@ogjonline.com)

Related Articles

Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

03/21/2014 A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine...

Industry group welcomes most UK budget moves

03/21/2014 Oil & Gas UK voiced support for all but one of several measures affecting the offshore producing industry announced in the UK government’s annu...

Analyst urges broader look at Amazon oil resources’ local impacts

03/21/2014 Increasingly disruptive protests are likely if oil, gas, and mining companies and national governments don’t pay closer attention to indigenous pop...

BOEM extends proposed higher offshore liability limit comment period

03/20/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management added 30 days to the public comment period for its proposed higher liability limit for offshore oil and ga...

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected