WASHINGTON: One of the most expansive public affairs campaigns in recent memory came to a conclusion two weeks ago when President Bush announced he would impose up to 30% tariffs on steel being imported from Europe, Asia, and South America.In 1998, American steel manufacturers banded together with the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) to form Stand Up for Steel, a coalition that has aggressively lobbied the White House to impose a 40% tariff on such imports.
Joe Lockhart and his recently established public affairs shop, The Glover Group, led the fight in its final days. The one-time press secretary to former President Bill Clinton called Bush's decision a qualified success.
At issue was American manufacturers' increasing use of imported steel.
Steel companies argue that without the tariffs to serve as a deterrent to purchasing foreign steel, they could soon be out of business. Indeed, a number of such companies have claimed bankruptcy in recent years.
"We worked to make the case for the companies and steel workers by both engaging Washington media and regional media, as well as steel states," said Lockhart. "We then ran a significant advertisement campaign on print, radio, and TV inside the Beltway and in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania
- all states considered crucial to President Bush's 2004 reelection bid.
The Emergency Committee for American Trade (ECAT), a coalition of steel-buying companies, fought against the tariffs, claiming that the surge of steel importations has dropped off in recent years.
"A 30% tariff won't solve the integrated steel industry's problems," said Calman Cohen, president of ECAT, "but it will force other American manufacturers to move steel-intensive production overseas, close US plants, and outsource US parts and components in order to compete."