The US Department of Commerce on Tuesday launched one of its biggest trade investigations in years into charges that manufacturers in South Korea, India and seven other countries, including Taiwan, are selling steel pipe used by oil and natural gas producers at unfairly low prices in the US.
Imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from the nine countries totaled nearly US$1.8 billion last year, more than double their total in 2010, as rising US oil and natural gas production have increased demand for the pipe.
In 2010, the US slapped duties on imports of OCTG from China after they hit about US$2.8 billion in 2008. That created an opening for the other foreign suppliers.
The latest case targets South Korea, which exported about US$831 million worth of the pipe to the US last year, as well as Taiwan, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
US producers are asking for anti-dumping duties as high as 240 percent on India, 158 percent on South Korea, 118 percent on Thailand and 111 percent on Vietnam to offset what they say is below market pricing, and lesser, but still hefty duties on the other five countries.
For two countries, Turkey and India, US producers are seeking additional countervailing duties to offset alleged government subsidies.
The US Department of Commerce will make a preliminary decision on countervailing duties in September and on anti-dumping duties in December. Final decisions will come in next year.
US companies seeking the relief include US Steel, which told the US International Trade Commission (ITC) at a hearing on Tuesday that it spent US$2.1 billion in 2007 to boost its OCTG production by buying a smaller manufacturer.
However, “for three years now, I have heard the same tale from our salesmen: ‘Imports are underselling us. We must lower our prices or our customers will go elsewhere,’” US Steel senior vice president Doug Matthews told the panel.
Under the US system, the commerce department investigates charges of unfair trade and determines whether duties are appropriate, and if so at what level, but the ITC must approve the probe and has the final word on whether duties are imposed.
The commission will vote in the middle of next month on whether there is enough evidence that the imports are injuring US producers for the commerce department to continue with the probe.
Other producers involved in the case include Maverick Tube Corp, Energex Tube and TMK IPSCO.
They told the commission that US demand for OCTG between 2010 and last year was the strongest they had seen in 25 years, but imports prevented them from getting a fair price for their products.