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President Bush Continues Reviewing Controversial Steel Tariffs - 2003-12-02


President Bush is doing some election campaigning in the eastern state of Pennsylvania where steelworkers want him to keep tariffs on foreign steel. White House officials say President Bush is still reviewing the steel tariffs, but expectations are growing that he will make a decision to eliminate them in the coming days.

More than $2 billion worth of European trade sanctions could begin this month if Mr. Bush does not lift those tariffs.

Campaigning at an $850,000 fundraiser in the city of Pittsburgh, Mr. Bush did not mention the tariffs, instead he spoke more generally about an improving economy. Pittsburgh is the home of U.S. Steel, whose chairman hosted the president's fundraiser.

Union leaders there say Mr. Bush should not cave-in to what they call European blackmail because the tariffs protect steel working jobs from foreign competition.

That is politically important in big electoral states including Pennsylvania and Ohio. But the steel tariffs have equally significant political opposition.

Autoworkers in the swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin say higher prices for American steel make their products less competitive. They say the tariffs have cost more manufacturing jobs that they have saved in steel mills.

When Mr. Bush imposed those duties last year, he said he wanted to protect American steel manufacturers from foreign imports so they could restructure the industry to be more competitive.

Speaking to reporters during the president's trip to Pennsylvania Tuesday, Senator Arlen Specter said he is still lobbying Mr. Bush to keep the tariffs despite some media reports that say the president has already decided to scrap them.

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