Friday, April 10, 2009

what isn't news

There was a time when steel industry news would actually make it into the paper here. The fact that it does not is probably the single biggest factoid describing the economic change in the region over the last 25 years. Via the UK's Telegraph one learns there is a simmering trade war in steel about to erupt between the EU and China. It's just an artifact of the fundamental issue that the global steel industry is facing a decline every bit as severe as what Pittsburgh faced in the 1980's, probably worse. Just imagine if the region still relied on steel jobs in the same way it did in the past.

Reminds me of the most telling story on the politics of trade locally . Some remember early in the decade there was a push in the US to impose steel tariffs on EU Steel. Unsurprising was that there was pushback from the EU in the form of countervailing tariffs that were to be implemented. I forget how far this all got, but what few people noticed was what those countervailing tariffs were and how they were focused on Pittsburgh. Clearly the international trade wonks understood this all to be a political issue here. So they logically sought out products to put tariffs on that would hurt the regions that were benefiting from the steel tariffs in the first place. Among the products they focused on initially were "nuclear power plant parts" which just had to have been put there to try and get at Western PA which has a concentration in the industry. Yet few here noticed, which pretty much obviated their core political purpose. It being just inconceivable to anyone here that steel was not a big economic generator and who cared a few years ago about the nuclear industry. But it also had pushback on the other side of the pond as well. Back then, the Westinghouse Nuclear folks were owned by British Nuclear Fuels Limited (BNLF) and the Brits pointed out that the EU's countervailing tariffs on those items were in the end just hurting them. So in the end I think it all went nowhere.


Post a Comment

<< Home