U.S. sets steep duties on imports of Chinese cold-rolled steel

By Reuters   May 22, 2016 | 06:10 pm PT
U.S. sets steep duties on imports of Chinese cold-rolled steel
An employee walks past columns of steel as she works at a steel production factory in Wuhan, Hubei province, August 2, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer
The United States slapped Chinese steelmakers with final import duties of 522 percent on cold-rolled flat steel on May 17 after finding that their products were being sold in the U.S. market below cost and with unfair subsidies.

The U.S. Commerce Department said the duties effectively will increase by more than five-fold the import prices on Chinese-made cold-rolled flat steel products, which totaled $272.3 million in 2015.

Cold-rolled steel is primarily used in automotive body panels, appliances, shipping containers and construction.

The rulings by the Commerce Department come amid escalating U.S.-China trade tensions, especially in the steel sector, where both U.S. and European producers claim China has distorted world pricing by dumping its excess output abroad as demand at home slows.

The original complaint was filed in July 2015 by major U.S. producers United States Steel, AK Steel Corp, ArcelorMittal USA, Nucor Corp and Steel Dynamics Inc. U.S. steel producers say they have laid off some 12,000 U.S. workers in the past year.

Commerce also levied final anti-dumping duties against Japanese-made cold-rolled steel of 71.35 percent, upholding preliminary findings. About $138.6 million of these products were imported from Japan last year.

Chinese companies affected by the duties include Baosteel Group, Angang Group Hong Kong Holdings Ltd, and Benxi Iron and Steel (Group) Special Steel Co Ltd. Among Japanese producers affected are Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp and JFE Steel Corp.

For Chinese cold-rolled steel imports, Commerce upheld its preliminary anti-dumping duties of 265.79 percent, but increased its preliminary anti-subsidy duties to 256.44 percent from 227.29 percent.

In a separate case, U.S. Steel is seeking to halt all imports from China's top steelmakers.

In a complaint to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. steelmaker called on regulators to investigate dozens of Chinese producers and their distributors for allegedly conspiring to fix prices, stealing trade secrets and circumventing trade duties by false labeling.

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China's Commerce Ministry expressed its "strong dissatisfaction" with the U.S. ruling, and said the United States should rectify its mistakes as soon as possible.

"The United States adopted many unfair methods during the anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into Chinese products, including the refusal to grant Chinese state-owned firms a differentiated tax rate," it said.

The Group of Seven rich nations plans to address the steel glut when it meets in Japan later this month, in a move seen likely to add to pressure on China.

Analysts said the potential closing off of the U.S. market would not substantially reduce China's exports, accounting for just 2 percent of its total shipments.

"The duty will not have a big impact on China's overall steel exports because the volume to the United States is very small... but because of anti-dumping, export destinations are becoming more and more dispersed," said Kevin Bai, an analyst with CRU in Beijing.

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