Commerce Secretary Evans says no to lowering Mexican cement tariff

The Bush administration is aware of the cement shortage, but thinks the industry should work out the problem rather than rely on the government to lower tariffs on Mexican cement, Commerce Secretary Donald Evans told the Associated General Contractors of America in Phoenix Oct. 1.

Construction trade organizations such as AGC have repeatedly asked the administration to help alleviate rising cement costs by lowering the current 80 percent duty on Mexican cement. Cement prices have risen approximately 20 percent since last year due to increased construction activity.

“I know these shortages are hitting your industry hard, and we are working to find a solution acceptable to all parties,” Evans told AGC members.

The Clinton administration originally put the tariff on Mexican cement because of a trade dispute over Mexican companies selling cement in the United States at prices much cheaper than those American cement companies could sell their products for. The anti-dumping order on imports of gray Portland cement from Mexico affects only Mexican cement sold in the United States at “unfairly low prices,” and does not establish any limits on the amount of Mexican cement that can be brought into the United States, Evans said. While the president does not have the power to unilaterally suspend dumping duties, his administration is researching other ways of relieving the cement shortage, Evans continued.

“The Bush administration has continued informal talks with the Mexican government and with representatives from the U.S. and Mexican cement industries,” Evans said in his speech. “We have, and will continue to work to identify an alternative solution to continued operation of the anti-dumping order.”

While speaking to reporters, Evans added that it was “up to the companies to get together and reach an understanding to withdraw the (dumping) complaint.”

Leaders of construction associations have asked for at least a temporary reduction of the Mexican cement duty.