A lion among men

For many of those in the European and Japanese steel industries, the decision by US President George Bush to impose tariffs on steel has been heartily condemned. Here at e4engineering, we’d rather shake his hand.

Is George Bush wrong to want to protect US workers and to safeguard the US steel industry? I don’t think so.

The facts are staring the US President in the face: since 1998, LTV Steel, Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel and Republic Technologies have declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. A fourth company, CSC, has closed its doors. The President could not stand by and watch any more pear-shaped nonsense.

After all, steel is one of the major ingredients in the US security arsenal. It is the basic stuff from which ships and aircraft are built. If all the steel mills in the US were allowed to go to the wall, then the mighty US would need to import the stuff in from overseas.

That’s a risk that the US could not and should not take. For who is to know what the future may bring? What would happen if ten or twenty years from now, the friendly overseas steel vendors decide to cut off the supply to the US? It would hardly be a good situation, would it?

In the UK, Corus’ Chief Executive Tony Pedder reacted to the President’s decision by calling on the UK and Dutch governments, as well as the European Commission, to respond with equal measures to protect and safeguard the EU steel industry. Good for him. It’s about time we started protecting some of our own industries too, instead of wallowing around like a bunch of namby-pambies while our industries all drift off elsewhere.

Because we haven’t been very good about looking after our own, have we? Do you remember what the British government decided to do when Corus closed its Welsh steel mills? That’s right: help retrain all the former employees as IT consultants or some such nonsense. No such rubbish from President Bush, thank goodness.

Why don’t we have some tariffs to protect our steel business like Pedder suggests? It’s not as if we don’t have other tariffs to protect other industries. After all, we subsidise farming to the hilt when it would be so much cheaper to buy our wheat and pork bellies from the US.

Oh yes, it was OK to dream up some good excuse for those guys in the Barbour jackets and shotguns, wasn’t it? But if only we had been so swift to protect out steel mills as well.

So carry on Mr. President. Just carry on. And may the power of e4 be with you.

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