From the (early) MR archives
Bush to drop most steel tariffs, Tyler Cowen, on December 1, 2003 at 7:45 am
Bush decided in March 2002 to impose tariffs of 8 to 30 percent on most steel imports from Europe, Asia and South America for three years. Officials acknowledged at the time that the decision was heavily influenced by the desire to help the Rust Belt states, but the departure from Bush’s free-trade principles drew fierce criticism from his conservative supporters. After a blast of international opposition, the administration began approving exemptions.
The WTO’s ruling against the tariffs was finalized three weeks ago, clearing the way for the retaliatory levies, and Bush’s economic team concluded unanimously that the tariffs should be scrapped. The source involved in the negotiations said the consensus in the White House was that “keeping the tariffs in place would cause more economic disruption and pain for the broader economy than repealing them would for the steel industry.”
Here is the full story. The formal decision is expected to be announced later this week. This is the first piece of economic policy good news in some time, but it is sad that it required a WTO ruling and threats of European retaliation to come about.”
I recall visiting the White House with Vernon Smith around this time. Smith told Bush that he had done the wrong thing with the steel tariffs, and Bush simply snapped back: “You’re the economist…leave the politics to me!” I wonder how Trump put it to his advisors…
Addendum: Here is Bob Crandall criticizing Reagan steel protectionism from the 1980s. Here is a 2003 retrospective analysis of the Bush steel tariffs.