Negotiations to help the U.S. steel industry gain import limitations on European steel will not be reopened, Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige said yesterday.
Baldrige told the joint Congressional Steel Caucus that the U.S. government made the best settlement that it could in the dispute, and that it is up to the industry to accept or reject the settlement.
Baldrige's remarks were the first public statements on the future of the trade talks, which ended last week with the U.S. industry rejecting a proposed import limitation arrangement. The arrangement had been intended to head off the administration's imposition of unfair trading practices duties against European steel makers, a move guaranteed to escalate tensions between the trading partners.
"After hours and hours of complex negotiations, we're not going back to [the Europeans], and they're not going back to us," Baldrige said. He said he couldn't think of any circumstances that would bring him back to the bargaining table.
"We can't go back to the table," Baldrige said. "We've been at this for four to five months. There comes a time when both sides say enough is enough."
When asked what will happen next in the dispute, Baldrige said the industry and Commerce will go through with the dumping and countervailing duty complaints filed against European steel makers.
Dumping is the injuring of the domestic industry by foreign firms selling steel here at prices below what it cost to produce it. Countervailing duties are imposed when foreign steel exporters are unfairly subsidized by their governments and hurt U.S steel makers in the process.
The dispute stemmed from complaints filed last January by seven of the nation's largest steel makers, who said they were being injured by unfairly priced steel from Europe, South Africa, Brazil and Romania. In June, Commerce made a preliminary determination that seven European Economic Community countries had been unfairly subsidized and required importers of their products to post large bonds.
On Tuesday, Commerce announced antidumping findings against steel makers in five EEC countries and required them to post additional bonds.
Baldrige said the U.S. industry had asked him to negotiate an agreement that would:
* Cover more steel products than those in the complaints. Baldrige said 85 percent of steel imports from Europe, excluding oil industry steel and pipe, were included under the proposal, compared with 40 percent covered by the complaints.
* Prevent the Europeans from diverting steel exports to the United States from goods covered under the agreement to those not included.
* Establish an export licensing system in Europe to enforce the arrangement.
* Last through 1985, when the Europeans are scheduled to stop subsidizing their industries.
* Reduce total steel imports from Europe, excluding pipe and tube, to 5 percent or less.
Baldrige said that the proposal met the requirements, but that the industry wanted fewer European steel imports to enter the country than allowed under the proposal.