• Kyodo

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The U.S. Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling Monday that cold-rolled steel products imported from Japan and 19 other exporters are being dumped on the U.S. market.

The department 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.

In September, U.S. steelmakers, including Bethlehem Steel Corp. and LTV Steel Co., filed a dumping complaint targeting imports of cold-rolled steel from 20 exporters. The complaint was filed after the U.S. International Trade Commission rejected a similar petition in March 2000 to impose antidumping duties on cold-rolled steel from six exporters.

In response to the new complaint, the ITC issued a preliminary ruling in November that the cold-rolled steel imports are hurting the U.S. steel industry.

If the Commerce Department and the ITC each issue a final ruling supporting the U.S. industry’s complaint, antidumping duties corresponding to the dumping margins will be imposed on the cold-rolled steel imports.

In March, in a bid to rescue the struggling U.S. industry, the U.S. government slapped additional tariffs of up to 30 percent on an array of steel imports for three years under the WTO’s emergency import restriction measure.

Under the measure, cold-rolled steel, a mainstay steel product from Japan, faced the highest additional tariff rate.

If antidumping duties are imposed on cold-rolled steel in addition to the emergency import restriction measure, a virtual ban on imports would be in effect.

In Tokyo, officials of the Ministry of Economy and Trade and Industry criticized Tuesday’s decision, saying it is a move toward protectionism.

“We’ll firmly deal with the issue along with the U.S. emergency import restriction measure,” a METI official said.

Cold-rolled steel is a high value-added product used in automobiles, electrical appliances and other equipment. U.S. imports of Japanese cold-rolled steel in 2001 totaled about 357,000 tons.

Hiranuma talks tough

Trade minister Takeo Hiranuma said Tuesday he will object to a U.S. preliminary ruling that Japanese exporters are dumping cold-rolled steel products on the U.S. market.

“Although it is as yet a preliminary ruling, I will tell the U.S. side to examine it carefully when I meet U.S. Trade Representative (Robert) Zoellick and others,” Hiranuma, minister of economy, trade and industry, said before heading to Washington.

Hiranuma was scheduled to meet Commerce Secretary Don Evans on Tuesday and Zoellick on Wednesday with the aim of getting the U.S. to drop its import curbs on steel products or compensate Japan for the estimated losses.

Some Japanese officials suspect the ruling, issued just hours before Hiranuma’s departure, was timed to illustrate U.S. resolve to protect its struggling steel industry.

“We are concerned about a protectionist move that seems in no way compatible with the situation where imports are declining,” remarked one official. “We will stand firm against it, as well as the issue of the U.S. government invoking steel safeguards.”

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