Commerce Sec. Don Evans on the Repeal of Steel Tariffs

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, December 4, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: France is happy. U.S. steelworkers are not. That’s how one union member summed up the president’s decision to pull those steel tariffs Thursday. Is that being fair to the president? Is that being fair to union workers?

Let’s ask one of the president’s point men on this major policy change. I’m talking about Don Evans. He’s the commerce secretary of these United States and he joins me from Washington.

Mr. Secretary, always a pleasure.

DON EVANS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: Thank you Neil. Good to be with you again.

CAVUTO: A lot of these steel guys are upset. Should they be?

EVANS: Neil the policy worked. The program worked. The president made the right policy decision 21 months ago when he made the decision to put the safeguards in place. And they were temporary safeguards, as he said at the time.

And he said we would continue to monitor the industry and see how it progresses as to restructuring and consolidation. And, you know, I would applaud the steelworkers, I would applaud management, because there has been significant restructuring, considerable consolidation, a ground-breaking labor agreement. And because of that, the steel industry, once again, is competitive in the global arena.

CAVUTO: Do you think, though, Mr. Secretary, that there were fears in the administration that whatever the good intent of starting these tariffs, it was sort of snowballing out of control, that Europe and other countries, the Chinese were going to look at global trade war here and that you guys have essentially said, no mas?

EVANS: No, not at all, Neil. This decision was based on change economic circumstances in the industry, which is exactly what is called for under the safeguard. The president has a responsibility to continue to monitor the industry, which is what he did, and what the administration did.

The ITC reported to him early this fall that indeed the industry was much stronger today than it was 21 months ago, indeed there had been major restructuring and consolidation. Productivity was up, costs were down. And they were once again competitive.

In fact, exports right now are the highest level they have been in the history of the industry; imports are back to 1993 levels. Steel prices actually are higher outside the United States than they are inside the United States.

Jobs are much more secure within the steel industry today than they were 21 months ago. And so, there has been significant progress, and because of these changed economic circumstances, the president made the decision that it was time to lift the safeguards.

CAVUTO: Do you worry about the steel industry right now? A lot of these guys have gone out of business in the last two years or so, we think. We’ve lost 13 steel companies.

What if there is an all-out need for steel products or metal or a real armament here to boost our military? Are we prepared, sir, to meet that challenge, if so many of these steel companies are hurting?

EVANS: Indeed we are, Neil. There is no question about that. The steel industry is once again strong in this country because of the president’s safeguards and because of the president’s policy. The president talked about that going into the safeguard 21 months ago, the importance of national security, with respect to the steel industry. But the restructuring has taken place, and the consolidation has taken place to the greatest extent.

CAVUTO: But you’re not worried there are national security risks here as a result of what has happened?

EVANS: Not at all. Not at all.

CAVUTO: Mr. Secretary, always a pleasure. Thank you very much.

EVANS: Thank you, Neil. Good to be with you.

CAVUTO: Commerce Secretary Don Evans in Washington.

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