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Fri, Dec 29, 2006 - Page 10 News List

US set to import record amount of steel

STEELY RESOLVE With imports up 45 percent this year, the US will have to address the issue of countries, most of them in Asia, with a history of 'unfair trading' practices

AP , WASHINGTON

The US is likely to import a record amount of steel this year, a sign that it needs to address unfair trade practices by China and other Asian exporters, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) said.

Based on preliminary data released on Wednesday by the Census Bureau, the industry trade group said that steel imports could reach 46 million tonnes this year, above the previous record of 41.5 million tons set in 1998.

The AISI represents over 30 US steel companies, including Charlotte, North Carolina-based Nucor Corp, Pittsburgh-based United States Steel Corp and Lisle, Illinois-based IPSCO Inc.

The Census Bureau reported that imports jumped 45 percent through October this year, to 38.8 million tonnes, up from 26.8 million tonnes in the same period last year. The US imported an additional 3.4 million tonnes last month, the bureau said.

The AISI said much of the increase stemmed from countries with "a history of unfair trading," including China, India and several other Asian countries.

Imports from Taiwan have increased 213 percent so far this year, the group said, and imports from China are up 135 percent.

UA steel imports from China reached 4.3 million tonnes in the first 10 months of this year, Census Bureau data showed, up from 2 million tonnes in the same period last year.

Andrew Sharkey, president and CEO of AISI, said the increase from China "underscores the need" for the US and other North American governments to "more aggressively press China to abandon its currency manipulation, export subsidies, trade barriers and other anticompetitive practices that deny North American steel producers a level playing field."

"It is imperative that the problem of unfair trade, which continues to confront this and many other US manufacturing industries, be fully and firmly addressed," Sharkey said.

US manufacturers have long criticized China for allegedly keeping its currency artificially low against the dollar, which makes its exports to the US less expensive.

The import numbers do not reflect the impact of a vote earlier this month by the US International Trade Commission to revoke a set of tariffs on high-grade steel imports used in cars.

An official at the United Steelworkers union criticized that move for putting the US steel industry "at the mercy of foreign producers who routinely have taken advantage of our open market to dump their unfairly traded steel."

But some analysts have argued that further trade protection for the steel industry is unnecessary.

Daniel Ikenson, associate director of the Cato Institute's Center for Trade Policy Studies, said in a report last month: "By every relevant financial yardstick, the industry is performing phenomenally and investors are bullish about its future."

"To continue ... trade restrictions on behalf of an industry that is in enviable health," Ikenson wrote, "is an injustice to ... taxpayers and consumers."

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