During the eight years West Virginian Charlotte Lane spent on the U.S. International Trade Commission, about half the unfair trade practices cases heard by the panel involved steel or related industries, she told members of the Charleston Rotary Club recently. During her tenure, "we had cases involving Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, Wheeling-Nisshin, Weirton Steel ..."
It's a shame Lane isn't still on the ITC . Perhaps more attention would be paid to safeguarding the U.S. steel industry against unfair trade practices, including dumping, by foreign competitors.
Lane, who left the ITC early this year, noted that while she was a member, about 88 percent of her votes were in favor of U.S. companies complaining about foreign competitors. That is important because a decision by the ITC that competitors from abroad use illegal tactics can be followed up by measures such as protective tariffs.
Unfair competition affecting U.S. steel producers did not end when Lane left the ITC. If anything, it may have intensified during the worldwide recession, which still is affecting some countries severely. China, for example, has increased its steel exports to the United States dramatically as domestic demand lags.
Yet, as we have reported, the government sometimes does not use protective tariffs to safeguard U.S. companies even when there is clear evidence foreign firms are selling products, including steel, in this country at prices below the actual cost of production.
"U.S. industry can compete on a level playing field," Lane told her audience in Charleston. Of course. American steelworkers, including those still working in West Virginia, can turn out products of excellent quality at good prices - if they are not driven out of business by unfair trade practices.
Are U.S. steel companies continuing to suffer from dumping and other similar misbehavior? That is something members of Congress from steel-producing states, including West Virginia and Ohio, should be investigating. If the current administration is not doing its job to safeguard American working men and women, perhaps because of misguided fear protective tariffs would have adverse effects diplomatically, Congress should step in and order corrective action.