World Blasts Steel Tariffs, Threatens Reprisals
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"World Blasts Steel Tariffs, Threatens Reprisals"
U.S. has decided to impose heavy tariffs on steel imports, and, as expected, it invoked resentment in every nation affected, including Japan.
A simple fact is that the American steed industry has failed, no matter how cleverly excuses are stated. Their incompetent management who could not recognize the industry's fragility has been ignoring to renovate the aged facilities, and the near-sighted union interested only in the earning for the day has been pretending that tomorrow never comes. In short, they failed to modernize and stay competitive. The latest report on Indiana based National Steel, a U.S. subsidiary of a major Japanese steel company filing chapter eleven seems very illustrative of the situation. And once again, the industry ran to the government, like a wheedling child, accusing the hard working neighbors as the cause of their dissatisfaction.
This has been going on for decades, surfacing every now and then as trade disputes with other countries. It is perfectly legitimate, therefore, for other countries, including Japan, to bring the case to WTO. As a matter of fact, it would be a shame if Japan, as a supporter of WTO, and who claim to be a true believer of free trade, do not stand up.
From an objective point of view, this can be interpreted as a good example of showing the level of difficulty to reform a solid structure, be it industrial, social, or political.
As reported elsewhere, Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi is losing public support even further, as a diet member of the ruling party, Mr. Suzuki, has been reported to have maliciously influenced the policy making process at the foreign and possibly other ministries. It was only a couple of weeks ago when Mr. Bush expressed his full support for Mr. Koizumi's endeavors toward structural reform. Or was the reality more or less the other way around, that it was Mr. Bush who was seeking for ideas from Mr. Koizumi to fight the old guards in his own country.
Mr. Koizumi's popularity could deteriorate more if President Bush's words are found to be hollow, allowing suspicion as to whether his support was genuine. Mr. Bush's decision this time, to compromise with the antiquated domestic industry, undermines confidence among people around the world, by contradicting with the ideology of free trade which he himself has been advocating.
It was noted in the reports that. Mr. Bush has a large number of votes at stake in steel industry. This would not relieve him of the mission to propagate, and practice, free trade, if Mr. Koizumi were not to be relieved of the assignment to restructure Japan despite the existence of all the "forces of resistance."