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Steel pipe imports said taking market share

Keywords: Tags  Steel imports, Mike Rehwinkel, Evraz, Sergei Kuznetsov, Severstal, Mario Longhi, U.S. Steel, oil and gas automotive

CHICAGO — Unfairly traded imports continue to negatively impact the U.S. steel market, with the pipe sector in particular feeling the pinch, according to leading executives from a number of domestic mills.

The domestic steel industry did a good job of staying lean following the economic downturn, Michael Rehwinkel, president and chief executive officer of Evraz Inc. North America, said March 13 at Platts’ 9th Annual Steel Markets North America Conference in Chicago.

However, growing demand during the recovery “should be met by North American producers but it’s not. (Foreign) pipe is pouring into our market.”

“The renaissance of automotive, construction, oil and gas should be met by our production, not foreign production,” Rehwinkel added.
Sergei Kuznetsov, chief executive officer of Severstal North America Inc., confirmed it’s a growing problem and possibly an indication that trade remedies are not working like they should.

“I go to Home Depot in Detroit and see pipe from India. We have (domestically sourced) low-cost natural gas, low-cost coal, low-cost iron ore—everything—and we still can’t compete with that (Indian pipe on price). There’s something wrong with that. We have to enforce U.S. trade laws and stop the import surge,” Kuznetsov said.

A failure to do so is keeping domestic steelmakers under pressure, he added.

“I don’t think low capacity utilization (70 to 75 percent) is the new normal,” Kuznetsov said. “That is barely enough to sustain our asset base in good shape. ThyssenKrupp (AG’s North American segment) is struggling and no one showed up to pick up RG Steel (LLC)’s assets in bankruptcy. That is telling.”

Mario Longhi, executive vice president and chief operating officer for U.S. Steel Corp., Pittsburgh, hinted that domestic pipe producers are considering filing a complaint with trade authorities, echoing others who have already suggested this might happen (, Feb. 28).

“The problem of rightsizing (domestic capacity) is not sufficient to overcome the tremendous invasion of products, and I do not believe that it is all fairly traded,” he said, warning that imports are growing exponentially from countries that used to trade little here, including Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

Kuznetsov noted that import data aren’t complete, since imports of semi-finished products that get rolled here are not included in the official tube import numbers.

“I see a bright future, economically, in supplying the construction market,” Rehwinkel added, “but it should be us, not imports.”

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