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Klobuchar, US Steel chief testify on trade dispute

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Mario Longhi, the president of United States Steel Corp., testified before the International Trade Commission Tuesday in Washington arguing that U.S. tariffs on South Korean steel imports are legitimate.

The U.S. Commerce Department ruled last week that steel producers in South Korea and eight other nations are unfairly dumping below cost steel into U.S. markets, especially oil pipe.

The U.S. Commerce Department has set duties from 9.89 percent to 15.75 percent on Koran steel pipe.

Now it’s up to the International Trade Commission to decide if those tariffs are proper under global trade agreements.

“We appreciated the opportunity to testify before the International Trade Commission today to present compelling evidence of the significant, material harm inflicted upon the domestic steel industry by companies from nine countries,’’ Longhi testified in front of the commission. “We have faith in the process, and the diligent and conscientious work of the ITC. We remain confident that this esteemed body will find that domestic oil country tubular goods (oil pipe) producers have been materially harmed as a result of unfairly traded products.”

U.S. Steel is the largest domestic producer of steel pipe. Iron Range workers for the company’s Keetac and Minntac operations led a huge rally in Virginia last month to spur action against the steel imports.

Klobuchar, D-Minn., urged the commission to uphold the Commerce Department findings that below-cost sales of foreign-made steel in the U.S. are harming U.S. workers – not just steel mill workers but also Minnesota taconite industry workers who supply the iron ore to make steel.

“Unfair trading practices by foreign companies are compromising our businesses’ ability to compete and putting steelworker jobs in jeopardy,” Klobuchar said. “Now that the investigation has found clear evidence of Korean companies dumping steel into the U.S., the ITC needs to impose penalties on these firms and continue cracking down on illegal trade practices that hurt local economies in Minnesota and across the country.”

The International Trade Commission is expected to render a decision on the U.S. case against South Korea by Sept. 23. It is expected to decide the case against India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam by Aug. 25.

The Commerce Department said that South Korea was the biggest violator at $812 million of below cost steel, India $175 million, Vietnam $110 million, Turkey $107 million, Ukraine $87 million, Taiwan $79 million, Saudi Arabia $71 million, Philippines $55 million, and Thailand $37 million.

Meanwhile, judges for the World Trade Organization in Geneva Monday found that the U.S. overstepped its rights in 2012 by imposing hefty duties on Chinese steel products, solar panels and a range of other goods in that Washington argues that Chinese companies enjoyed Chinese government subsidies. But the judges also said many of China’s arguments in the case were unfounded.

U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman said the decision to reject many of China's challenges was a victory for American businesses and workers.

“With respect to the other findings in the panel report, the Administration is carefully evaluating its options, and will take all appropriate steps to ensure that U.S. remedies against unfair subsidies remain strong and effective,” Froman said.


Reuters contributed to this story.