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Behind the Steel-Tariff Curtain

A blow-by-blow look at the struggle that culminated in Bush's decision to impose the levies. The main combatants: Politics vs. economics

During a swing through New Orleans on Jan. 15 as part of a Presidential road show in support of trade expansion, White House political adviser Karl Rove was standing among the crowd when he suddenly found himself face-to-face with a passionate advocate of free trade -- David P. Schulingkamp, vice-chairman of the city's port authority. Schulingkamp intended to make a few pointed observations to Rove, widely considered to be the driving force behind the Administration's support for the domestic steel industry's pleas for import protection.

"I told him that imported steel provides 40% of our total revenue," Schulingkamp recalls. Gesturing toward a nearby cargo container, he told Rove that once the collection of imported steel parts was unloaded, it would be cleaned and filled with U.S. grain for export.