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Lawmakers Urge Administration To Protect U.S. Ball Bearing Industry

March 4, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Industrial-state lawmakers, citing national security concerns, urged the Reagan administration Thursday to protect the domestic bearing industry against cheaper imports that are driving American manufacturers out of business.

″If we lose our domestic bearing industry, our military would become dangerously dependent on foreign nations to supply us with these vital components,″ said Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, R-Conn., and 38 other lawmakers in letters to Commerce Secretary C. William Verity Jr. and Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci.

Bearings are used in fighter jets, tanks, submarines, missiles and other defense systems. Foreign competition has ″gravely injured″ U.S. manufacturers, Mrs. Johnson said.

In July, the industry asked the Commerce Department to impose import restrictions on overseas bearing makers, but no action has been taken.

Mrs. Johnson, who represents a western Connecticut district with several major bearing employers, said nearly 65 percent of ball bearings sold in the United States now come from abroad, and that figure is growing.

The congresswoman cited a 1986 Defense Department study that concluded bearings ″are a strategic industry, critical to the nation’s defense.″ And the Pentagon found that the domestic bearing industry is in ″imminent danger of being unable to support national defense needs″ and urged immediate action.

″Nonetheless, two years after the release of this report, the federal government has still not implemented any steps to assist the bearing industry,″ Mrs. Johnson said.

The industry filed for temporary relief under the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 to provide U.S. companies with enough time to modernize.

The Anti-Friction Bearing Manufacturers Association, which represents 43 companies nationwide, asked the Commerce Department last summer to restrict foreign imports to 32 percent of the domestic ball bearing market and 18 percent of the roller bearing market. Imports make up about 40 percent of the roller bearing market, Mrs. Johnson said.

The Commerce Department has until July to make a recommendation to President Reagan, but Mrs. Johnson has lobbied Verity to expedite the process and was ″informally assured″ by the department that it would be moved swiftly, according to Johnson aide Caroline Willson.

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