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WASHINGTON Trade panel votes against tariffs on cold-rolled steel



Published: Wed, August 28, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The ruling was a blow for a Warren steel company that was one of seven steelmakers calling for the additional duties.

THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

STAFF/WIRE REPORTS

WARREN -- A WCI Steel official today (Wednesday) blasted a federal trade panel's decision to eliminate a new batch of tariffs on countries accused of dumping cold-rolled steel products on the U.S. market.

"The International Trade Commission's action is part of a disturbing pattern," said WCI spokesman Tim Roberts. He said the ITC has voted down every steel trade case since new steel import tariffs were imposed last year.

"They're sending a message that it's OK to dump steel here again, with no fear of consequence," he said. "That's the biggest disappointment. The facts were ignored, the law was ignored."

One of seven

WCI was one of seven domestic steelmakers that filed a trade case against 20 countries, alleging they were violating U.S. trade laws by selling cold-rolled steel below their cost of production or below the prices they charged in their home country.

The U.S. Commerce Department investigated, agreed with the steelmakers and imposed new duties of 2 percent to 154 percent. Since May, those duties were charged on cold-rolled steel imports from 20 countries in addition to the steel import tariffs.

WCI, the Mahoning Valley's only remaining steelmaker making steel from raw materials, has been losing money for almost two years, partly due to competition from cheap foreign imports. The Warren company employs 1,900.

More losses projected

Roberts couldn't release results of WCI's next quarterly report, set for release by mid-September, but officials have projected more losses.

Foreign steel producers and U.S. companies that use imported steel praised the 4-1 U.S. International Trade Commission vote, saying the decision is in line with evidence that the cold-rolled imports are not harming the U.S. industry.

What vote means

Tuesday's vote means the duties will not be charged for five of the countries: Australia, India, Japan, Sweden and Thailand. The commission has not yet ruled on the remaining countries, which include Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, Russia, South Korea and Turkey.

"U.S. steelmakers offered no convincing evidence that the industry was in trouble, much less that imports were causing problems. On the contrary, it is clear from the hardships being suffered by U.S. steel consumers that cold-rolled steel imports are vital elements of a healthy U.S. metalworking economy," said Hidenori Tazawa, chairman of the Japan Steel Information Center and executive vice president of NKK America Inc.

About 26 U.S. steel mills located primarily in Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia produce cold-rolled steel products. The mills employ about 28,000 workers.

The decision comes after last week's announcement by the Bush administration that it would allow hundreds of exemptions to a different set of steel tariffs that began March 20.

Buying time

President Bush had imposed those tariffs of 8 percent to 30 percent for 3 years on certain steel products to give the beleaguered U.S. steel industry time to reorganize and become more competitive.

Meanwhile, steel imports to the United States continue to increase, up 14 percent from June's 2.4 million tons to 2.7 million tons in July.




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