Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Rep. Howard C. Nielson, R-Utah, visited Geneva Steel Tuesday to see if a U.S. export restraint agreement is really saving a failing domestic steel industry.
"They wanted to come here because they saw this as an interesting American story," said Geneva Steel President Joe Cannon. "Geneva is living proof that the (Voluntary Restraint Agreements) policy has worked. The plant reinforced their beliefs as to why the policy is important."The Voluntary Restraint Agreements have been in effect since 1984 to restrict the amount of steel countries can export to the United States. The VRA program, scheduled to expire in September, was initiated by President Reagan to give the domestic steel industry an opportunity to compete in its own homeland.
Last week the House Steel Caucus introduced a bill to extend the program for five years. Forty-nine senators and more than 100 representatives favor the extension, including the entire Utah delegation.
Steel Caucus Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., and caucus member Ralph Regula, R-Ohio, came to Geneva Tuesday at Nielson's invitation. Two other congressmen, Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Bill Lowery, R-Calif., also came.
United Steelworkers Subdistrict Chairman Hayne Holland and Local Steelworkers Union President Lynn Christiansen were included in the discussions.
Robert Grow, Geneva Steel executive vice president, said Geneva is a prime example of what was to be accomplished by the VRA program.
"We have cut plant costs, workers are more productive, we have improved steel quality, and we are competitive in the international market. We are now poised for modernization."
Geneva, the 10th largest producer of steel in the nation, exports 20 percent of its steel to Japan. No one would have thought that was possible five years ago, Grow said.
Nielson said, "The VRAs are necessary if we are going to continue to level the playing field in steel. The last five years have helped, but we're not yet done."
The VRAs purpose is to limit steel imports to the United States to 18 percent. Since 1984, the percentage of steel imports has dropped from 30 to 22 percent.
The restraints have given Geneva and other domestic steel plants time to recover from the early 1980s when the industry bordered on the brink of bankruptcy, Nielson said.