Walter Jackson school, going strong, turns 50
In early 2002, the American steel industry was near extinction. In the previous four years, firms representing a full 30 percent of all American steel-producing capacity filed for bankruptcy.
The domestic steel market was being decimated by cheap imported steel — much of it subsidized by foreign governments and dumped into the U.S. market at prices far below fair value — that artificially drove down prices and eliminated profits for domestic steelmakers. Steel was drowning in red ink.
In March 2002, President Bush seemingly went against his free-trade, open-market philosophy and imposed tariffs of 8 to 30 percent on most steel imports from Europe, Asia and South America.
Although the tariffs were to last three years, Mr. Bush lifted the sanctions in December 2003, a month after the World Trade Organization ruled them illegal and the European Union and Japan threatened to impose sanctions on up to $2.2 billion in exports from the United States, which would have had the effect of initiating a global trade war.
But the tariffs gave the U.S. steel industry time to restructure. Within 20 months, International Steel Group, U.S. Steel, Nucor Corp. and Steel Dynamics acquired the assets of many of the bankrupt steelmakers. Steel prices also adjusted dramatically during that period.
The result is a more efficient steel industry with a future that looks much brighter.
Locally, Nucor's acquisition of Trico Steel allowed the shuttered mini mill on Alabama 20 to re-open. Three years later, local employment at Nucor is approaching 600. The possible addition of a galvanizing plant would mean an additional 100 or more good-paying jobs for North Alabamians.
Translate that local success across the country and it becomes evident that, no matter how unpopular Mr. Bush's decision to impose tariffs was internationally, it saved an entire industry from bankruptcy.