Battle continues for fair trade in global market

We applaud manufacturers like Vallourec for standing up to unfair international trade. The local pipe mill was absolutely correct to raise with the U.S. International Trade Commission the issue of ill effects it is suffering from competition with subsidized and unfairly priced imports from Korea, Russia and Ukraine.

The U.S. ITC ruled in recent weeks in favor of Vallourec, which is the largest U.S. producer of seamless steel tube with a plant in Youngstown. The ruling means the U.S. Department of Commerce now will issue anti-dumping duty orders on seamless tubular imports from the three countries and countervailing duty orders on those products from Korea and Russia.

The determination sounds like a victory for Vallourec and for all American manufacturers who face unfair trade practices. Indeed, it is critical that guidelines exist to protect manufacturers that compete daily with foreign-produced products on the international market, many of which are manufactured on unlevel playing fields. Subsidies of those products by foreign governments often put domestic manufacturers behind the eight-ball.

But combating the problem is not that simple. It is further exacerbated because the legal battle often is repeated over and over and over again as different unfairly produced products from numerous companies and nations creep into the market. Manufacturing sources have told us that frankly, the competing products often are the same but enter the market labeled or identified differently, in veiled attempts by these competing countries to find loopholes to avoid the imposed duties.

Vallourec’s most recent U.S. ITC complaint is not its first, and, sadly, we realize it won’t be its last.

For instance, newspaper archives show similar complaints of unfair trading have been being made for years by several companies with local ties. A 2009 complaint, for instance, was ruled upon by the U.S. ITC in May 2010. Vallourec, parent company of Youngstown’s Vallourec Star, along with other local pipe plants were part of that complaint.

The U.S. ITC in August 2014 ruled local producers of natural gas industry tubular products were being materially injured by illegally dumped imports, then from India, Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam.

The U.S. ITC in 2015 renewed anti-dumping and countervailing duties on certain oil and gas industry pipes that were coming from China.

Relatively new data shows that more companies are requesting U.S. International Trade Commission investigations in the past couple years — as much as 15 percent more from 2019 to 2020, for instance, according to a report published by California-based intellectual property firm Patexia.

And each time a complaint is filed, it generally takes at least a year to investigate and prove before any action begins to level the competition.

Federal lawmakers representing the Mahoning Valley and Ohio, including U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and others, have continued to fight for fair trade and level playing fields.

They’ve each testified many times through the years before agencies like the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Office of International Trade and Investment, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of State, and the Office of Trade, Customs and Border Patrol.

The hearings have focused on global steel industry issues and policy recommendations to strengthen U.S. manufacturers. Indeed, we applaud this continued effort.

Still, each complaint filed by companies like Vallourec leads to a lengthy process bogged down with bureaucracy. The wheels of justice that turn slowly. Indeed, this is America, and we investigate and enforce rulings with fair justice. That doesn’t happen quickly.

Consider that the most recent complaint first was filed by Vallourec with the trade commission and commerce department more than a year ago, in July 2020. That’s when Vallourec petitioned regulatory trade agencies for an investigation into whether the industry was being “materially injured” by pipe imports.

So, for an entire year the investigation dragged on, while Vallourec continued to do business while battling unfair competition.

We encourage our lawmakers to not give up on finding ways to create new rules that can limit these unfair trade infractions. And we encourage trade enforcement officials to continue their battle to maintain fair trade rules.

Likewise, we encourage companies like Vallourec and other manufacturers who compete globally to continue to stand their ground.

What other option do they have? We are a global economy, and we must be able to compete fairly in the marketing of America’s products.



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