WASHINGTON — Representatives of the air conditioning industry have cautioned the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) that continuation of tariffs on steel will encourage U.S. companies to move manufacturing facilities abroad. Citing huge price increases to manufacturers who use steel and pointing to broken long-term contracts, representatives are urging the Bush administration to end the steel tariffs before more jobs are lost and more U.S. companies open plants in other countries.

“ARI urges the commission to consider the serious competitive impact of the steel tariff on our industry in its report to the president this September,” said William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI).

Sutton was joined in submitting testimony by Terry L. Bowman, vice president, Supply Chain Management, York International Corp., and Brian Kelly, president of National Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Products.

Noting that the air conditioning industry employs over 175,000 workers and contributes $17 billion annually to the U.S. economy, Sutton said, “As one of my members told me, ‘Steel is a fundamental component of everything we make — every day we pay extra for steel means more industry shifting to Asia.’”

Bowman, whose company uses 100,000 tons of steel annually and purchases more indirectly as components and subassemblies, testified that “the continuation of the tariff will reinforce corporate management’s perception of the tariff, and hasten the continual pressure on corporate buying to move work and sourcing to China or outside the United States. I challenge you to look at the ‘country of origin’ markings on various products on your next walk through one of the large discount stores, and remember that we need trade legislation that aids all American manufacturing. I believe that you will find that foreign products are expanding into new areas of manufacturing, and that the steel tariff is contributing to this end.”

Publication date: 07/07/2003