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Trade case mulled as rebar imports spike

Keywords: Tags  rebar imports, Gerdau Long Steel North America, International Trade Commission, trade case, Samuel Frizell

NEW YORK — Market speculation is mounting about a possible trade case against Turkey after total rebar imports soared to more than 140,400 tons in March. However, some dismissed rumors of a trade case as nothing more than customary saber-rattling.

"There is a case in the works, and (the mills) are putting something before the (U.S. International Trade Commission) down the road," a source familiar with the situation said. "I think it should be evident to the country that Turkey is a problem and they’re not playing by the same rules. And it is massively affecting our industry."

Preliminary U.S. Census Bureau figures show that total rebar imports nearly doubled in March from 75,600 tons in February and were 43 percent higher than 98,300 tons in March 2012.

Turkish mills supplied more than 106,000 tons of rebar in March—more than double the 51,300 tons the previous month—accounting for 75.5 percent of the total.

Domestic rebar mills said that the flood of Turkish imports was partially to blame for their slim margins and mediocre sales volumes.

"We’re feeling pressure," a domestic rebar mill source told AMM. "(Imports are) one reason our competitors are keeping pricing low. ... The issue is, it’s going to come in anyway. It’s here, it’s coming, someone’s going to deal with it. I’m not sure how to deal with it. It’s costing us business, and it’s certainly costing us money."

Tampa, Fla.-based Gerdau Long Steel North America told customers in a May 1 letter that it was lowering rebar prices by $20 per ton partially in response to increasing competition from foreign producers (, May 1).

Several sources said that imported rebar, particularly from Turkey, is coming in too fast and is too cheap. "We’re seeing rebar $100 a ton below our costs," a second domestic rebar mill source said. "The margins we’re making are grotesquely thin."

Others downplayed the effects of imports, saying that spring trends were normal and that rumors of a trade case were overblown.

"Our bookings have stayed fairly stable," a third domestic rebar mill source said. "I have a sense that (imports) have been tracking along and reflect the normal spring increase for the months of January through March."

Some sources also said that tons scheduled for April delivery arrived early, artificially inflating March import numbers. "A lot of (the tons) hit early into New Orleans, and they came up the Mississippi. I’ve been shipping Turkish stuff since mid-April, and that’s that March arrival data," a rebar distributor source said.

A rebar trader downplayed rumors about a potential trade case. "I don’t know how true that is," he said. "I don’t know if that’s saber rattling or what. Can they win it? Are they losing money?"

Domestic rebar producers would need to prove to the International Trade Commission that they are losing money due to imports, sources said.

"It’s not going to happen," the distributor source said of a trade case. "(The mills are) going to claim damage. They can’t show damage unless you can show that you’re financially being impacted."

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