Bill Would Reimburse Steel, Apples


Thursday, October 19th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


WASHINGTON (AP) — Legislation sent to President Clinton on Wednesday would allow U.S. steel companies and apple growers to start getting the millions in punitive tariffs the government collects from foreign competitors found to be trading unfairly.

Clinton is not fond of the measure but is expected to sign it.

Dumping of foreign steel and apples at prices below overseas production costs is a major issue Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Washington — battleground states in next month's presidential election.

``Free trade does not mean free to dump, free to subsidize, free to distort the market,'' said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, author of the measure to turn anti-dumping duties into compensation for aggrieved industries.

His proposal was part of a $78 billion agriculture spending bill that the Senate passed on an 86-8 vote Wednesday.

The legislation instructs the government to set up a system for distributing punitive tariff money to companies and farmers that prove they were harmed by illegally low prices. About $39 million a year could be distributed, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In a written statement, the administration opposed the measure, but White House officials have indicated that Clinton will sign it.

The duties alone have been enough to restore fairness to the market, the White House said, adding that giving the tariff money to aggrieved Americans raises the potential ``for trading partners to adopt similar mechanisms.''

An organization of importers was gearing up to start fighting for repeal.

``If this measure becomes law, it will provide a tremendous financial incentive for all industries to seek dumping duties on imports,'' said Jon Jenson of the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition. ``This spells disaster for the thousands of U.S. companies that rely on imports.''

The coalition includes Michelin North America Inc., the National Retail Federation, the Precision Metalforming Association, Consumers for World Trade and the American Institute for International Steel.

The United States has been imposing punitive anti-dumping tariffs since 1930.

After a company that believes it is the victim of unfair pricing files a complaint, it is investigated by the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission. Punitive duties can be ordered if low-priced imports are found to have harmed the American competitors.

The dumping provisions added to the farm bill were designed with the steel industry in mind, but they apply to every kind of business.

On Thursday, for instance, the International Trade Commission was scheduled to take testimony on whether China and Argentina are selling unfairly low-priced honey.

If that trade case is proven, South Dakota and Iowa honey-makers that filed the claim could end up sharing future tariff money collected at the docks by the Customs Service.

The commission also is deciding whether to lift punitive tariffs on fresh garlic from China, canned pineapple from Thailand and silicon metal from Argentina, Brazil and China.

Other commission investigations this year resulted in new tariffs on apple juice concentrate from China, revoking a tariff on chrome-plated lug nuts from China and Taiwan and continuing tariffs on salmon from Norway and on cotton shop towels from Bangladesh.

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Information on the bill, H.R. 4461, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov