WASHINGTON (March 26, 2003) — The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) said it supports Congressional hearings exploring the steel tariffs currently imposed upon U.S. manufacturers and whether or not they´re detrimental.
The Diamond Bar, Calif.-based trade association issued a statement saying it is concerned about the unintended consequences of the tariffs, which it said negatively impact manufacturers and the price of consumer goods.
The “Steel Safeguard Program” may have imposed a significant hardship on the automotive aftermarket and other industries and ultimately upon consumers of automotive accessories and products, according to statements submitted by SEMA to the U.S. House Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.). SEMA claims steel tariffs have been harmful to SEMA member companies involved in manufacturing steel products, but also on other steel consuming industries across the country. The Subcommittee is scheduled to hold a hearing today on the impact of the Bush Administration's Section 201 steel tariffs.
In a related action, the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), directed the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) to conduct a “Section 332” fact-finding investigation on the tariffs' impact on steel consumers. The ITC will consider whether the tariffs have been more productive for producers or detrimental for consumers during the first half of a scheduled three-year duration. As a result, the ITC could recommend reduction or repeal of the tariffs.
SEMA said its members felt the impact of the steel tariffs almost immediately after they were instituted in March 2002, reporting steel shortages and price hikes of up to 50 percent on raw steel. While they have struggled to adjust to the tariffs, purchasing steel remains costly, difficult and subject to uncertainties, according to the association.
“The tariffs are squeezing profits and threatening the ability of some specialty aftermarket vehicle parts manufacturers to remain in business,” said Brian Caudill, SEMA director of government and public affairs. “Companies are responding to the pressure by passing price increases along to the American consumer, slowing production lines and laying off workers, or considering permanent relocation of manufacturing facilities abroad.
“Some businesses have been forced to purchase components from overseas, at the cost of American jobs. In all cases, affected companies have experienced lower profit margins and are unable to reinvest monies into their businesses.”
SEMA has more than 4,500 member businesses nationwide that manufacture, rebuild, distribute and retail parts and accessories for motor vehicles. Steel fabricated products manufactured by SEMA member companies include functional, restoration, racing, high-performance and styling-enhancement products for use on passenger cars, trucks and special interest vehicles. Among other products produced by SEMA members are wheels, grille guards, truck running boards and accessories, suspension components and exhaust systems.