The Commerce Department declared Friday that South Korean steel companies and those in seven other countries were illegally dumping low-cost steel pipes and steel tubing into the American construction market and would be subject to additional duties.
The decision, subject to ratification by the United States International Trade Commission, is the latest ruling in an effort by the American steel industry to combat a flood of cheap steel pipes that are used heavily in oil and gas wells, a fast-growing part of the domestic economy.
China has been the primary target of ire among steel manufacturers in the United States, having exported vast quantities of steel in the last decade. In 2010, the United States levied duties on the importation of Chinese steel pipes in a major victory for the American industry.
But since that ruling, Korea and other countries have stepped into the vacuum left by a drop in Chinese imports. In 2013, South Korea exported 894,300 metric tons of steel pipes into the United States at a value of more than $800 million, according to data released by the Commerce Department. The seven other exporters named in Friday’s decision exported about $630 million worth of steel in the same year.
Under United States law, dumping occurs when a company sells its goods at less than their “fair value,” according to the Commerce Department. The cases announced Friday also involved companies that received financial assistance from their governments that benefited the production of their goods.
The ruling said the action was intended to help American steel companies “seek relief from the market-distorting effects caused by injurious dumping and unfair subsidization of imports into the United States, establishing an opportunity to compete on a level playing field.”
If the trade commission affirms that the dumping alleged by the Commerce Department has harmed the industry, varying duties would be imposed on imports of the tubes from the eight exporters. The department said tubes from South Korea would receive tariffs of 9.89 percent to 15.75 percent.
Officials at American steel companies and their industry representatives hailed the decision as an important step toward fair competition.
Calling it “a good day for America’s steelworkers,” Scott N. Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said, “The outpouring of bipartisan support from Congress and the thousands of workers who took the time to make their voices heard underscored the importance of this decision.”
Mario Longhi, the chief executive of United States Steel, which was among the companies that initiated the complaint against their foreign rivals, said the decision would help his company and others compete for their fair share of the market for steel tubes.
“As a result of rising imports, United States Steel has suffered mightily — orders have been reduced, mills have been idled and jobs have been lost,” Mr. Longhi said in a statement. “Our only recourse against such actions was with the U.S. Department of Commerce and their ability to support the rule of law and create a level playing field for American manufacturing.”
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The South Korean Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The action by the United States to impose duties on the steel imports is part of a larger international battle over the manufacture of steel, which is critical in most construction.
And the decision on steel tubes from South Korea and the other exporters is a smaller-scale version of the efforts by American companies to combat what they claim is unfair competition by Chinese companies. American executives say the subsidization of manufacturing by the Chinese government, along with currency manipulation and other factors, gives the Chinese competitors an unfair advantage.
The dumping allegations are a factor in the often tense relationship between the United States and China as the world’s two largest economies vie for power and influence in Asia and around the globe. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Beijing this week as part of an effort called the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, aimed at improving relations between the two countries.
In recent months, those relations have been strained by China’s assertion of dominance in waters contested by the Japanese and Vietnamese, and by allegations that American government computers have been hacked by people with Chinese connections.
The current case involving steel tubing was focused primarily on South Korea, which the American companies contended was dumping virtually all of its steel tubing on the American market. A preliminary decision in February by the Commerce Department found that Korean companies were not dumping.
That ruling enraged officials in the American steel industry and their supporters on Capitol Hill, who argued strenuously in public over the last several months that Korean steel pipes should be subject to duties because they are being sold at below cost in the American market.
The announcement by the Commerce Department on Friday reversed the earlier decision, a move that analysts said was not uncommon.
In addition to South Korea, the Commerce Department said that companies in the following places are dumping steel pipes into the United States: India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
Source – WASHINGTON