U.S. starts move to slap tariffs on Korean steel

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U.S. starts move to slap tariffs on Korean steel

The United States has begun the process to determine whether to impose anti-dumping tariffs on steel for the production of oil pipes imported from Korea and five other countries, the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) said Friday.

The move comes amid concerns the U.S. government is moving to slap anti-dumping tariffs and other trade barriers on Korean steel products.

The Donald Trump administration has invoked Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act, a rarely used tool that allows emergency trade sanctions on “national security” grounds in an apparent precursor to fresh trade barriers to foreign steel imports. While on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump has said steel is a big problem.

In April last year, Trump ordered a probe into whether steel imports undermined U.S. national security.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) began the process Wednesday at the request of U.S. steel makers which demanded the U.S. government impose 23.52 percent of antidumping tariffs on Korean large diameter welded pipes, the KITA said.

Hyundai Steel and Seah Steel exported a combined $150 million worth of large diameter welded pipes to the U.S. last year. The five other countries are China, Canada, Greece, India and Turkey. The ITC is set to announce a preliminary ruling by March 5 on whether the foreign steel products either damaged or has the potential to threaten the U.S. domestic industry substantially.

The U.S. Commerce Department will make a final decision on whether to impose the anti-dumping tariffs in case the ITC brings the case to the department. The United States currently imposes anti-dumping duties on 82 percent of Korean steel products brought into the world’s largest economy.

The Seoul government has said it will actively tackle any unfair trade barriers that can be imposed on Korean products by foreign countries, including filing complaints with the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In November last year, Korea won a case at the WTO against the U.S. over anti-dumping duties that Washington slapped on Korean steel pipes.

In July 2014, the U.S. Commerce Department levied 9.9 percent to 15.8 percent anti-dumping duties on oil country tubular goods (OCTG) imports from Hyundai Steel, Nexteel, Seah Steel and Husteel.

OCTG is one of the fastest growing sectors in the pipelines market and Korean producers enjoyed a boom in the North American country’s oil and gas industry.

Five months later, Korea submitted an appeal with the WTO against the tariff, arguing that the U.S. calculation of margins for Korean products was not “reasonable” when compared to the rate of global profit margins.

The WTO dispute settlement panel sided with Seoul’s claim that the U.S. incorrectly applied the term “same general category of products” in determining for OCTG products and didn’t use the actual profit data.

Korea exported $818 million worth of OCTG to the U.S. in 2013, but the amount shrank to $262 million in 2015 and $271 million in 2016.

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