Steel trade in the postwar period became a political issue in the United States when imports began to impinge on domestic markets and industry profitability was in decline. Protectionist trade policies in the United States and the EC have often assumed a cause-and-effect relationship between steel imports and a deterioration in the industry's performance, implying that trade restrictions will contribute to the recovery of the industry. An overview of world steel production and trade in the postwar period reveals a dramatic increase in the volume of steel production and exports and a dramatic shift in the sources of exports, factors that have contributed heavily to protectionist policymaking. The United States had progressively decreased its participation in export markets throughout the 1950s, an early indication of competitive decline, and became a net importer of steel in 1959 for the first time since 1897.