WASHINGTON - A bill to impose quotas on steel imports still faces major hurdles to become law, but some auto industry lobbyists were chagrined that it passed in the House of Representatives last week.
The bill was the first big trade vote for scores of newcomers to Congress, and some observers used it as a barometer of protectionist sentiment. Scott Lane, vice president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association, called the vote symbolically bad.
Morry Markowitz, vice president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, said his organization has not taken a formal position on the bill yet, but as a rule it opposes quotas 'that are detrimental to consumers and businesses.'
General Motors Chief Economist Mustafa Mohatarem said the bill could cause 'steel shortages in the U.S. at a time of increased auto production.'
Lawmakers from steel states say overseas steel makers have been dumping products in the United States and the Clinton administration has done little in response.
The House voted 289-141 for the bill.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate and a veto threat from President Clinton.
Ironically, the bill came up just days after the administration had issued its 1999 Trade Policy Agenda and 1998 Annual Report, listing overseas barriers it is fighting.
For example, the administration said, somewhat harshly, 'The chronic bilateral trade imbalance in the automotive sector continues to plague the U.S.-Japan relationship.'