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Steel executives push for fair trade

Keywords: Tags  American Iron and Steel Institute, John Ferriola, Nucor Corp., Gerdau Long Steel North America, Michael Rehwinkel, Mike Williams, U.S. Steel Corp., fair trade Thomas Gibson

NEW YORK — Executives from many of the country’s largest steel companies met with senators and government officials on Capitol Hill July 16 to push for action against unfair trade practices, arguing that lackluster U.S. demand leaves no room for unfairly traded imports.

"While the economy is growing slowly in 2013, steel shipments and demand are not growing," Michael T. Rehwinkel, executive chairman of Evraz Inc. North America, told reporters on a media call following the event organized by the American Iron and Steel Institute. "Government intervention is creating global steel overcapacity, which is leading to a surge in steel imports to the United States."

Also in attendance were Nucor Corp. president and chief executive officer John Ferriola; Gerdau Long Steel North America president Guilherme Johannpeter; senior vice president for U.S. Steel Corp.’s North American flat-rolled operations, Mike Williams; and AISI president and chief executive officer Thomas Gibson. They met with newly appointed U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), as well as U.S. Commerce Department officials.

The steel executives urged action to end alleged currency manipulation by China and Japan, stricter enforcement of existing trade laws and the speedy appointment of U.S. International Trade Commission nominees.

According to the executives, major steel players like China and Japan are keeping the value of their currencies unnaturally weak, thereby encouraging steel exports to countries like the United States. Williams told reporters that Japan exported 2.6 million net tons of steel to the United States in 2012, while the United States exported only 26,000 tons to Japan.

"Japan has adopted a policy to make the yen more competitive," Gibson said. "These are fundamentally governmental decisions in China and Japan about taking measures to make their economies more competitive. We continue to support Congress moving forward on currency manipulation (and policies that) would allow injured U.S. parties to countervail against such practices."

Earlier this month, U.S. producers filed a trade case against imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from nine countries (, July 2), which executives said was a positive first step in the enforcement of fair trade.

"The most significant decline in domestic shipments has been to the domestic OCTG business," Williams said. "From 2010 to 2012, OCTG from the (nine subject) countries increased 111 percent, capturing a significant share of the market (and) ... materially injuring the U.S. industry. We will be arguing for aggressive enforcement (of fair OCTG trade)."

Executives have suggested that the U.S. steel industry may file trade cases on other steel products as well.

"We’re not looking only at OCTG, but we’re looking at the whole steel market," Ferriola said.

Some sectors of the steel market have seen a slight improvement recently in pricing and demand, although overall steel shipments of 39.6 million tons in the first five months of this year are down 6 percent from 42.1 million tons in the same period last year, according to data released July 16 by AISI.

Executives said that any improvement in the steel market later this year would not hurt the industry’s ability to lobby in Washington for fairer trade laws.

"It’s not about the market. It’s about illegally traded product moving into the United States. It has nothing to do with markets. If we find steel is coming into the country in an unfair manner due to dumping, we’re going to take action," Ferriola said.

Editor's Note: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story included some incorrect data on OCTG imports. The above story reflects the corrected figures.

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