A steel trade war may be brewing. On Apr. 1, President Bush allowed the so-called Voluntary Restraint Agreements governing steel to expire, leaving U.S. producers without protective quotas for the first time since 1984. Meanwhile, talks on a new global steel trading agreement fell apart over the sticky issues of subsidies and antidumping provisions.
A divided U.S. steel industry never mounted a strong lobbying campaign to extend the quotas. Now that they have expired, most major producers plan to use existing U.S. antidumping laws to halt unfairly priced imports. Expect a barrage of dumping cases this spring--and possible retaliation by South Korea and other steel-producing countries.