Steel plan could hurt Iron Range

Minnesota State Roundup

Published May 1, 2002  | May 2002 issue

When President Bush recently announced 8 percent to 30 percent tariffs on some steel products, many in the industry cheered. But Iron Range taconite producers were not among the fans.

The tariffs apply to imports of certain foreign steel products, but the president also agreed to initially allow the tariff-free import of up to 5.4 million tons of semi-finished steel slab, with increased levels in coming years. Steel slab, which can be rolled into steel, directly displaces taconite. Each ton of steel slab is equivalent to 1.3 tons of taconite pellets.

Imported steel slab is nothing new. About 6.1 million tons came into the United States last year. But Iron Range steelworkers, industry representatives and lawmakers had hoped for more relief. Instead, there is concern that over the next few years as more foreign semi-finished steel slab is allowed tariff-free, there will be a parallel drop in taconite demand.

Kathy Cobb