Steel-dumping Concerns Bring Favorable Commerce Department Ruling

The U.S. Commerce Department has approved anti-steel dumping duties on foreign producers of steel pipe for the energy sector, a victory for Alabama steelmakers, the state’s two U.S. senators, and the domestic oil and gas industry.

U.S. steel companies filed a formal complaint with the Commerce Department last year. In May 2014, , Republican U.S. Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions signed a bi-partisan letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzer urging duties on imported tubular steel.

“Defending against artificially priced foreign imports is critical to having a functioning market that allows U.S. workers to compete,” Sessions wrote. “Alabama has a robust steel industry that should not be unfairly damaged by foreign imports that skirt our trade rules.”

An Economic Policy Institute study said that as many as 500,000 jobs were threatened, including 13,000 in Alabama.

Although subject to appeal, the decision puts the Commerce Department closer to imposing tariffs as high as 118 percent on “oil country tubular goods,” Reuters reported. “This was a resounding victory for the domestic steelmakers,” said Phillip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, which represents a number of North American steelmakers.

South Korea exported $818 million of tubular steel to the United States in 2013, more than the combined imports of the other countries involved, according to Commerce data as reported by Reuters.

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that the imports from South Korea, India, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam would be subject to duties. Those from the Philippines and Thailand were exempted and Saudi Arabia, part of the original complaint, was dropped from the case this week.

The Commerce Department said last month that imports would range from 15.75 percent to 9.89 percent on three steelmakers. The Obama administration initially did not agree with the steel industry and withheld placing additional tariffs on imported South Korean steel during a preliminary review of the claim made by U.S. Steel producers, reported.

– Dana Beyerle