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Recent progress on trade emboldens the metals sector

Jan 27, 2017 | 06:07 PM | Fastmarkets AMM staff

Tags  steel, trade, trade cases, flat-rolled steel, John Ferriola, Nucor, Roger Newport, AK Steel Commerce Department

New trade alliance, recent Commerce Department monitoring announcement greeted warmly on the heels of some favorable trade rulings.

Some events and decisions during the past year have had large numbers of members of the metals sector applauding progress and goals when it comes to dealing with U.S. trade issues.

Some 2016 flat-rolled trade cases are having a positive impact as steel imports are down approximately 20 percent during 2016 compared to 2015, Nucor Steel Corp. said last year.

Over the summer, affirmative final determinations were announced in the three flat-rolled antidumping duty and countervailing duty cases involving corrosion-resistant, cold-rolled and hot-rolled steel products. These final determinations were an important step in returning fair trade to the U.S. flat-rolled steel market.

“The greatest challenge facing the steel industry (is) global steel overcapacity resulting from the trade distorting practices of some governments,” said John Ferriola, Nucor Corp. chairman, president and chief executive officer. “The message is simple, significant progress is being made. But there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. The affirmative final determinations in the three flat-rolled steel antidumping duty and countervailing duty cases were an important step forward.

“However, many of the products require trade enforcement action, including pending cases addressing illegally traded imports of rebar and cut-to-length plate. At the same time, decisive action is needed to deal with efforts by foreign producers to circumvent duties by routing products through third-party countries. One notable example is China’s circumventing cold-rolled and coated flat-rolled steel duties by shipping product through Vietnam.”

“Nucor embraces free and fair competition,” Ferriola said. “With our conscious focus on continual improvement and technological innovation, Nucor thrives in a marketplace where winners are determined by real economic advantage, not advantages derived by artificial or illegal means. For this reason, Nucor will continue to be proactive and aggressive in pursuing effective and timely enforcement of our nation’s trade laws. We owe nothing less than that to our customers, our employees and our shareholders.”

Roger K. Newport, AK Steel Corp. chief executive officer, offered some similar views.

“Despite the positive determination in the recent steel trade cases, we believe the main the driver in the recent volatility in steel market prices continues to be influenced by what we believe are unfairly traded steel imports,” Newport said. “For this reason, we participated in the filing of petitions charging that unfairly traded imports of corrosion-resistant carbon steel and cold-rolled carbon steel from Vietnam are circumventing the anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders recently imposed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, because we believe they originated in China.

“We believe that after the Commerce Department imposed duties on these imports, Chinese producers began to divert material through Vietnam prior to exporting the products to United States in an attempt to evade the duties. Imports of these products from China have declined dramatically in response to Commerce’s imposition of duties, while imports of similar products from Vietnam surged. It is our belief that the Chinese steel producers are attempting to circumvent these duties by transshipping steel products through Vietnam for minor finishing operations.”

“Our goal remains the same in all of our trade actions,” Newport said. “We expect a level playing field, and we expect United States government to enforce our trade laws. We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that this happens in the future.”

Aluminum extruders from around the world announced late last year that they have formed an alliance designed to promote and defend fair trade practices. The International Fair Trade Alliance (IFTA) is a non-profit organization created to bring together aluminum extrusion manufacturers and suppliers from across the globe for the purpose of promoting free and fair trade. The Alliance, which began forming earlier this summer, is comprised of aluminum extruders from North and South America, Australia and New Zealand, the Gulf States, and Israel.

“IFTA believes that a network of market-based aluminum extrusion companies and associations can work together to support, teach, and advocate fair trade practices at a national and international level,” Jason Weber, director,- international market intelligence, Sapa Extrusion North America, and newly elected chairman of IFTA said,

In January, the U.S. Commerce Department announced it is extending the Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis system (SIMA) by five years. In a final rule, SIMA is extended through March 21, 2022, Commerce said in a Jan. 5 announcement on the Federal Register.

The program, in existence in its current form since 2005, provides statistical data on steel imports five weeks earlier than it otherwise would be available from U.S. Census data, the department said. The system publicly disseminates import license details and information on steel exports.   

“It is especially critical given the current global overcapacity in steel and slowdown in global economic activity, as it ensures timeliness and transparency for the industry, government, importers and steel consumers,” American Iron and Steel Institute president and chief executive officer Thomas J. Gibson said in an email to AMM Jan. 5.

“Making aggregate import and pricing data drawn from the licenses publicly available provides all interested stakeholders with a more informed understanding of changing market conditions in a transparent manner,” the department said. In finding no significant burden to importers, Commerce found that “it continues to take no longer than 10 minutes to complete the automated license form, and for most applicants, the time spent is much less.” 


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