[EDITORIALS]A misguided decision

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[EDITORIALS]A misguided decision

The U.S. government has decided to impose steep tariffs on most imported steel. Simply put, this is a misguided decision that flies straight in the face of the U.S. government's pronounced advocacy of free international trade discipline. The move means a return to protectionism that has been kept under wraps even through the recent global recession. What's more, it's a move that will dampen the world economy's slow but apparently concerted recovery.

The U.S. decision is based on its superpower attitude that topples overnight the personal integrity of U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration, an integrity that had been sustained since Mr. Bush's inauguration. The Bush administration should not be surprised to pay the price in weakened leadership on international trade and diplomacy.

If the announced measure is left to stand, the damage to steel exporting countries will be grave. The announced tariffs are as high as 30 percent, enough to block exports to the United States. But the United States must understand that the measure amounts to a suicidal gesture that will push the cost of such industries as the automobile, which consumes great amounts of steel. The measure will also result in delaying the restructuring of the U.S. steel industry, which lost international competitiveness decades ago. It also endangers the new round of talks by the World Trade Organization member countries, and may touch off trade disputes in other industries.

We need to make a clear response. All our trade and diplomatic efforts must be pulled together by March 20 when the tariffs kick in, in cooperation with other countries affected by the measure, including Japan, Russia and members of the European Union. An appeal must be brought to the WTO, but that alone would be a laid-back measure in the face of the expected damage to the local steel sector. We need to push for a revocation of the decision by exercising the rights provided under WTO agreements and consider retaliatory actions against U.S. industries as auto, film and agriculture. We will see whether our trade diplomacy shows fortitude in resolving the issue or is just testing the waters.
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