The Japanese steel industry on Tuesday criticized a preliminary ruling by the U.S. Commerce Department that cold-rolled steel products from Japan and 19 other exporters are being dumped on the U.S. market.

The Japanese industry claims that the decision, coming on the heels of additional tariffs imposed in March on steel products under WTO-sanctioned emergency import restriction measures, unfairly restricts the trade of steel products.

“The reason the U.S. steel industry lost competitiveness is that it has not taken self-help measures,” a senior official at a Japanese steelmaker said.

The antidumping steps by the U.S. government have decreased Japanese exports of cold-rolled steel products to the United States to levels where “normal trading is no longer possible,” according to an executive at another steel company.

Even if the U.S. imposes antidumping duties on the products, Japanese exports are unlikely to decline sharply since they are already at such a low level and fall outside U.S. antidumping steps, he said.

The U.S. Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling Monday, saying Japanese and other exporters of cold-rolled steel products were selling on the U.S. market at unfairly low prices.

It set dumping penalty margins of 115.22 percent each for Nippon Steel Corp. and Kawasaki Steel Corp., and 112.56 percent for other Japanese steelmakers.

The decision was “not surprising” given a similar preliminary ruling on the products in November by the U.S. International Trade Commission, an official at another steelmaker said.

The Japan Iron and Steel Federation is preparing its response to final rulings by the Commerce Department and the ITC, which are expected within a few months, according to industry watchers.

Akira Chihaya, the federation’s chairman, recently told reporters that the U.S. steelmakers’ moves in filing the complaint is an abuse of trade law, as the ITC had already rejected the petition once before, in March 2000.

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