U.S. steelmakers have finally gotten what they have been demanding – aninvestigation into what they say is the illegal dumping of cheap steelinto the American market. The Commerce Department has recently begunlooking into the allegations. But some businessmen around the GreatLakes say the investigation may be coming too late to save some jobs. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
U.S. steelmakers have finally gotten what they have been demanding – an investigation
into what they say is the illegal dumping of cheap steel into the American market. The
Commerce Department has recently begun looking into the allegations. But some businessmen
around the Great Lakes say the investigation may be coming too late to save some jobs. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports.
Since the first of the year, one iron ore mine on Minnesota’s Iron
Range has closed, another has threatened to close, and a third mine
is shutting down for a few weeks. That means some 2-thousand jobs
will be either permanently or temporarily lost. The problem is,
there’s too much steel right now on the U.S. market. And Duluth
Seaway Port official Ray Skelton says once steel companies have
too much inventory, the effect ripples across the Great Lakes.
“That means that everything starts shutting down straight
through the system. The mines themselves or specific mines start
having lay-offs, the rail companies that transfer the ore to the docks
start getting cutback and laid off. Dock workers themselves start
being impacted, the vessels start being laid up, some of the vessels a
ship or two or 3”
So Skelton is afraid there will be a slow start to the 2001 shipping
season. Lake Carriers Association president George Ryan in
Cleveland says he’s distressed by what he’s convinced is illegal
steel dumping from countries selling below cost. Ryan says that
could mean lost jobs for American workers.
“Threatens to reduce the amount of cargo shipped on Great Lakes
ships this coming year to steel companies that are adjusting their
inventory to meet this illegal dumping situation.”
Ryan is glad the Clinton adminsitration ordered the commerce
department investigation, but he thinks much of the damage has
been done. One-third of the steel used last year in the United States
was imported. That’s an unusually high amount according to iron
ore industry expert Peter Kakala. Kakala is a professor at
Michigan State University in East Lansing. He charts the ups and
downs of taconite mining. He says it’ll be hard to prove nations like
China and Russia are selling steel below cost to the United States.
But even so, Kakala is confident this slow period will soon pass.
“The first six months is going to be kind of the duration of
this slow down period and then towards mid to late summer I think
we’re going to see a pick up again, and then finishing the year fairly
Kakala says American steel companies and mines are competitive
with foreigh markets, and he thinks the economy is strong engough
to continue to demand more iron ore. If the commerce department
does rule that dumping is taking place, new imports may be banned
or tariffs could be used to off-set illegal foreign subsidies. In
either case, it would mean a rebound for Great Lakes mining and
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.