Report: Tariff Cost Ports Money, Jobs

Friday, January 12, 2007
According to reports, a 20-month tariff on imported steel resulted in a loss of 9.3m tons of the metal and more than 2,000 jobs at U.S. ports, according to a new report from a maritime economics consulting firm.

The study by Martin Associates of Lancaster, Pa., commissioned by the American Institute for Imported Steel and the first to document the economic impact of the tariff, found that the trade restriction kept about 424,000 tons of steel and iron from going through U.S. ports in 2002 and 2003. The metals were instead shipped to other countries. The data will be used to oppose future tariff threats and to educate policymakers, said David Phelps, president of the AIIS. Phelps, who was in New Orleans this week, presented the results along with Port of New Orleans President and Chief Executive Gary LaGrange.

In March 2002, a tariff of as much as 30 percent was placed on some specific forms of imported steel to help the struggling domestic steel industry compete with less expensive foreign steel. The tariffs were bad news for ports that handle imported steel, including the Port of New Orleans, where steel imports accounted for 40 percent of general cargo revenue. At the local port, steel imports fell 46.5 percent in 2003 to a historic low of 1.9 million tons, according to port data. In that time, the port also lost about

Nationwide, the tariffs caused a job loss of 2,380, according to the report, which studied the impact on the ports of New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, the Great Lakes and the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which combine to handle about 75 percent of the nation's imported steel. The decline also resulted in a loss of $360 million in revenue at the ports, the study said.

The data is conservative, the report said, because exporters, anticipating the tariffs, likely began diverting steel from the U.S. ports months before the restrictions went into place. President Bush rescinded the restriction 20 months later after the appellate body of the World Trade Organization in 2003 ruled them illegal and the European Union threatened to slap the United States with $2.2 billion in retaliatory taxes. Source: Newhouse News Service

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