Steeling For Impact

President George Bush could decide as early as today what to do about the struggling steel industry. 020305, GD.
Commentary from BBC Radio Host Peter Allen.

Hello, are you listening?

No, I know you can HEAR me, but I repeat, are you listening? You see, your pals here in Britain would like to know what's going on.

We've always seen America as standing for two things in particular... you're the champions of the free world... and the champions of free trade. Free trade is what gave you your strength... free trade is the way to economic prosperity, not just for you but for all of us too. Didn't George W Bush say immediately after September the eleventh that this was an attack on free trade.... didn't he say, we will keep our country open and our markets open for business? So why has he of all people suddenly slapped a 30 percent tariff on imports of steel into America?

We're told that your steel industry is in trouble ...the kind of trouble we had to face here in the 80s. It meant our steel companies had to get more efficient... cut back .. and find other jobs for thousands of steel workers. That's the way the free market works. We're told that slapping on this tariff will help rust belt Republicans in the mid-term elections.

Well, hold on a moment, folks... here's the facts you ought to hear. Firstly, the tariff won't help America... it'll hurt you... for every steel producing job it saves, it'll cost two in the steel consuming industry... everyone who buys an American car will now have to pay the cost of more expensive steel.

Secondly, this move will lead to retaliation. How can we tell other countries that protectionism is bad when you set this example? You're fighting one war already -- do you want a trade war too? Even George W's shoulder to shoulder buddy, our Prime Minister Tony Blair, called the tariff unacceptable unjustified and wrong. And thirdly, protectionism leads to poverty, poverty leads to deprivation and deprivation leads to terrorism -- that's right, terrorism, the real enemy we are all supposed to be fighting. Now we hear your next move is an assault on Saddam Hussein... and again it'll be down to Tony Blair to persuade the rest of Europe that we have to back America. That message is a lot harder to sell because of what your President did to his allies last week.