Rep. Visclosky introduced a bill recently, the Stop Illegal Steel Trade Act or SISTA, that will, if passed, freeze steel imports at their July 1997 levels. In addition to Visclosky, SISTA was crafted by Reps. Bob Ney (R‐Ohio), Jack Quinn (R-NY) and Dennis Kucinich (D‐Ohio). The bill purportedly has the support of more than 100 members of Congress on both sides of the aisle.
This isn’t the first time Rep. Visclosky has befriended big steel. In the fall of 1998, he joined other members of the “Congressional Steel Caucus” in introducing a resolution that called on the president to use every available means to block foreign steel. To its credit, the administration has largely ignored such self‐defeating protectionist demands. On January 7, the U.S. Trade Representative issued a report that proposed, among other measures, granting special tax breaks to steel companies to help them deal with increased foreign competition. Visclosky, who thinks steel producers deserve meatier special treatment, called the report “a mockery.”
The steel industry is upset because American companies are buying more foreign steel. Over the past 18 months, imports have risen by 47 percent. The industry claims that this surge could wipe out domestic steel production, destroy jobs and undermine U.S. industrial strength. In the face of such a dire threat, they say, U.S. companies ought not be free to choose from whom they buy their steel.