The president of U.S. Steel Corp. said yesterday that his company would be willing to drop its legal actions against foreign steel producers if the government comes up with a plan that makes sure that foreign steel is sold at a fair price in the United States.
At a press conference, David M. Roderick said he was encouraged by reports that the administration was developing a program that would trigger automatic goverment action if imported steel came into the country below a pre-established "reference" price.
But Roderick said the reference price must be set high enough to insure that the American industry "gets the relief we're entitled to under the law" and the administration must be willing to administer the program vigorously.
Otherwise, Roderick said, U.S. Stell - ard presumably other domestic steel makers - will continue to pursue their anti-dumping actions against Japanese and European steel imports.
U.S. Steel filed a complaint in September alleging that Japan was selling a wide range of steel products in the United States at prices below the cost of producing them, which is illegal under U.S. trade laws.
The Treasury tentatively found damping by Japan on a narrow range of products - plate steel. Steel makers are prepared in widen their assault on products they feel are being illegally sold in the United States, with the result that domestic production and sales have fallen.
The administration set up a special task force headed by Treasury Under secretary Anthony Solomon to devise an overall administration strategy for dealing with the steel industry's problems - including imports, old plants and low profits.
To deal with low-priced imports, the Solomon task force is expected to propose to President Carter next week a sppeeded-up anti-dumping program in which the government, not private industry, takes the initiative against below-cost imports.
Officials said that the plan will set a "reference" price based on the costs of the most efficient foreign producer of a specific product - which will usually be a Japanese company. That price will factor in the costs of shipping the steel to the United States and a reasonable profit.
If a product comes into the country at a price below the reference price - or perhaps a specified amount below such as 5 per cent - the U.S. government will presume dumping "unless an exporter can quicky demonstrate that his costs are lower", an official said.
Since the price is supposed to be based on the most efficient foreign producer, officials doubt an exporter will be able to demonstrate lower cost of production.
The government would then determine the dumping and occurred and levy fines within months.Present procedures take much longer.
The task force is also exploring how to give some form of assistance to a steel company that lacks the resources to modernize an otherwise usable plant, especially if the plant is located in an area of high umemployment.
Roderick told reporters yesterday that if the government plan uses Japanese prices for the reference point, the plan will not give us the relief we are entitled to under the law," because European producers are less efficient than Japanese or American producers.
If the government sets its reference price 5 per cent below the most efficient foreign producer's costs, "then they're giving a double-free ride to European producers and playing Santa Claus to the Japanese."
However, Roderick said, the company will wait until it sees the government plan. If it gives the company the relief it thinks it deserves under the law, U.S. Steel will withdraw present and future dumping actions. If it does not, "we'll go back to the longer, more tedious route of filing dumping charges," Roderick said.
Yesterday afternoon Roderick spoke to several hundred area shareholders of U.S. Steel. He reiterated the need for protection from unfair foreign competition and two other requirements for a stronger steel industry - relief from anti-pollution laws and higher profits.