NEW YORK Thomas Steel Strip Corp. has filed an anti-dumping trade petition with the Commerce Department and the U.S. International Trade Commission, alleging that nickel-plated steel from Japan is injuring the U.S. industry.
The Warren, Ohio-based manufacturer, a division of Indias Tata Steel Ltd., argues that diffusion-annealed nickel-plated flat-rolled steel products imported from Japan have not only depressed U.S. prices, but also have caused a loss of market share and squeezed profits, according to a March 27 petition filed simultaneously with both federal agencies.
Thomas Steel Strip said it is the only U.S. producer of annealed nickel-plated steel, which uses cold-rolled sheet, tin mill black plate or stainless steel as a substrate.
Much of Thomas Steel Strips product is used for alkaline batteries, for which there is no substitute for nickel-plated steel, the petition said. A decade ago, Thomas Steel Strip was the primary supplier of nickel plate to such customers as Procter & Gamble Co.s Duracell unit, Energizer Holdings Inc. and Rayovac, a division of Spectrum Brands, according to the petition. At that time, Japanese imports were consumed by Panasonic Primary Battery Corp. of America and its affiliated battery can maker, Panasonic Battery Corp. of America.
However, when Panasonic Primary Battery closed its U.S. operations in 2007, Japanese producers allegedly targeted and seized market share from Thomas Steel Strip.
"Under pressure from Japanese imports ... Thomas Steel Strip was forced to reduce prices during contract negotiations in late 2011," the petition said. "Then again, in March 2012, Thomas Steel Strip was forced to reduce prices to meet competition from Japanese nickel plate."
Some 12,483 tonnes of nickel-plated steel was imported into the United States from Japan last year vs. 9,785 tonnes in 2011 and 11,077 tonnes in 2010, the petition said. The average value of nickel plate for AA batteries fell to about $1 per pound in the third quarter of 2012 from $1.40 in the second quarter of 2011.
"Having lost significant sales volumes ... Thomas Steel Strip reduced prices on average to compete with dumped imports ... from 2011 to 2012," the petition said. "Moreover ... Thomas Steel Strips raw material costs were increasing over the same period. Thus, the dumped imports prevented Thomas Steel Strip from achieving higher price levels justified by rising costs, particularly in 2012. As such, Thomas Steel Strip was caught in a cost-price squeeze, resulting in operating losses in 2012."
In the past, nickel-plated steel was covered by a dumping duty order on corrosion-resistant carbon steel flat products from Japan, although it did not cover all specifications of nickel-plated steel. The order on Japanese products was terminated in 2007 following a sunset review (amm.com, Dec. 21, 2006).
The 66-page trade petition is the first steel-related case filed in more than a year. Oak Brook, Ill.-based Elkay Manufacturing Co. successfully petitioned for dumping and subsidy duties on imports of stainless sinks from China (amm.com, March 21).
Neither Thomas Steel Strip nor any foreign producers could be reached for comment.