WASHINGTON — United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Sen. Sherrod Brown on Friday applauded a World Trade Organization panel decision that China improperly imposed duties on grain-oriented flat-rolled electrical steel from the United States.
The United States complained in 2010 after China argued that U.S. “Buy America” provisions included in the 2009 economic stimulus bill acted as a subsidy, then imposed duties on the steel products. The products are produced in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Among the companies impacted by the duties were AK Steel in Butler County.
Kirk said the decision has the potential to strengthen future challenges to China’s trade remedy tactics.
“The panel upheld our claims that China’s duties on U.S. exports of steel products failed to comply with many WTO rules. This decision sends another clear signal to China that it must do more to fulfill its WTO commitments, and that it will be held accountable to play by WTO rules,” he said.
Brown, meanwhile, said the WTO’s decision effectively “stood up against illegal Chinese trade barriers.”
“Today’s ruling will remove barriers that prevent companies like AK Steel from selling their products in the global marketplace,” the Ohio Democrat said.
AK Steel employs about 6,200 workers in Middletown, Mansfield, Coshocton and Zanesville, as well as sites in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana, according to Brown’s office.
Tariff relief proposal
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., unveiled last week a compromise package they believe will allow the Senate this year to overhaul the way Washington waives tariffs for some foreign products in which there is no competitor in the United States.
By waiving the tariffs, the federal government makes it easier for a U.S. manufacturer to quickly import raw materials they might need for production and yet are not available from an American company.
“We want to make sure our companies get the exports they need,” Portman told reporters on a conference call. “I think this is the best path forward. It cuts unnecessary tariffs to create jobs and helps grow the economy.”
Under the current system, members of Congress introduce separate requests to waive tariffs on certain imports. Those measures have acquired the legislative shorthand of MTBs — after Miscellaneous Tariff Bills. The Portman measure would allow companies to either file a tariff waiver with the U.S. International Trade Commission, seek a petition from an outside third party or ask a member of Congress.
Small companies have long complained that they cannot compete with larger firms and their army of lobbyists for tariff relief.
Portman helps Romney
Time to ratchet up your VP-o-meter a little higher — Portman has done yet another Mitt Romney event outside the Buckeye state this weekend.
Portman, commonly considered a potential running mate for presumptive Republican nominee Romney, hosted a small business roundtable in North Carolina Friday with U.S. Sen. Richard Burr — who’s from there.
That came one day after his appearance at the Ralph Reed-affiliated Faith and Freedom Conference. Portman, introduced by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, was one of two potential short-listers to kick off the conference Thursday. The other? Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
Speculation will only continue to mount until Romney announces his choice. But on Saturday, Portman would not discuss his prospects, and Romney did not mention Portman in his Cincinnati speech Thursday. Romney did, however, mention Rubio.