NEW YORK South Korean producers of energy tubulars deny they are dumping their products in the U.S. market, where talk of a trade case against the country has been rife in recent months.
"Our price is very ... fair. Were not dumping. We think that we can defend ourself ... about the price," a source at one Korean tube and pipe manufacturer told AMM.
"There always have been rumors (of a trade case). The main reason is that Korean imports to the United States are very (large) over other countries. Korean manufacturers generally export over the cost price so we dont think that theyre dumping in the United States," a market source said, adding that Korean manufacturers were "ready for a possible anti-dumping case."
Some domestic mills said in quarterly earnings calls late last year that a trade case was brewing, and sources earlier this year called a case imminent (amm.com, Jan. 16).
A source at one importer of Korean product said the recent talk of a trade case might be a tactic to scare off imports, adding that in his opinion low coil costs were making Korean producers very competitive. "Its a way just to keep tons out, I think. I dont really see how theyre selling below their cost because coils from Asia have been cheap," he said.
"Weve got to make profit here otherwise I dont have a job. We cant sell below our cost, it doesnt make sense," a second importer source said, adding that Korean producers were competing on a level playing field with U.S. manufacturers.
"(South Korea) doesnt subsidize industry. Labor is as expensive as ours is. The cost of fuel is very comparable. Its the kind of competitor that the United States needs," he said.
Large Korean manufacturers of pipe and tube with sales channels in the United States, including Hyundai BNG Steel Corp., Nexteel Co. Ltd. and Seah Steel Corp., all posted profits in 2011, the latest figures available, according to filings with Korean regulators and company websites, although all three also make other products beside pipe and tube.
Sources expressed concern about the ongoing threat of a trade case as the United States is an important export market for Korean producers, who can sell little of their oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe domestically.
"We are very concerned about these issues. Nobody wants to injure this market or get kicked out of the game. We want to stay in the game," the second importer source said.
Korea shipped 97,785 tonnes of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and 79,429 tonnes of line pipe to the United States in January, by far the largest overseas supplier in both categories, according to figures from the U.S. Commerce Departments Import Administration.
Commerce figures show that OCTG from Korea was brought in at an average price of $967 per tonne in January, compared with $842 for product from Vietnam and $850 per tonne for product from Taiwan, the two lowest-priced importers.
"We dont want to sell our material at the low price. We are very ... proud of our quality," the manufacturer source said.
Hyundai, Nexteel and Seah did not respond to requests for comment.