Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said yesterday he will attempt to negotiate a solution to the steel crisis between U.S. steel makers and Europe during high-level talks in Brussels this week, but he cautioned that neither side had changed its position on the issue.
Baldrige said he and Commerce Undersecretary Lionel Olmer will meet with European Economic Community Vice President Etienne Davignon to try to solve the complaints of unfair trading practices filed by seven of the largest U.S. steel companies. Those complaints, and the Commerce Department's preliminary decision against the Europeans in a subsidy case last month, have brought the U.S. and its allies to the worst trade crisis in recent years.
Last month the Commerce Department ruled that European governments had unfairly subsidized their steel exports here and required them to post cash or bonds in the amount of the subsidies until a final determination is made in August. At that time the duties could become permanent.
The administration acted after the breakdown of last-minute talks by the EEC, the U.S. steel industry and Baldrige. He said in his discussions with U.S. steel executives and Davignon that "there appears to be some desire for some solution."
Sources said a solution would be based on proposals made last month in which the Europeans would "voluntarily" restrain their imports here. U.S. steel industry leaders wanted to include steel tubing for the oil industry in any export arrangement, but the Europeans don't because that category accounts for about 20 percent of their exports. The U.S industry was afraid that the Europeans would shift exports from restricted goods to the oil country products if the latter were not limited.
The Commerce secretary said the European leadership in the last couple weeks "indicated they took a very serious view of the problem. They wanted to see some high-level consultations on this." Since the preliminary subsidy decision, "there's been a lot of water under the bridge" and both sides have had time to think things out, Baldrige said. He said any solution would "have to relieve the injury caused to the U.S. industry."
Next month the Commerce Department is expected to make a final ruling in the subsidy case preliminarily decided last month. In addition, it is scheduled to determine whether the Europeans dumped steel here by selling it at a lower price than in Europe.
The Associated Press reported the following:
Even as the secretary was setting off for negotiations, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled yesterday that unfairly-low-priced stainless steel-clad plate from Japan is hurting U.S. steelmakers. As a result of the decision, the Commerce Department now may impose immediate antidumping duties on shipments of that specialty steel from Japan.
The stainless-clad plate case was filed last Oct. 6 by Lukens Steel Co.