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US to impose tariffs on steel imports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday voted to impose anti-dumping duties against steel pipe imports from six countries, exempting two, handing a victory to American steel producers who had complained that cheap imports were undercutting their prices.

Steel from India, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam will be subject to duties. The Philippines and Thailand will be exempt. Saudi Arabia, part of the original complaint, was dropped from the case this week.

The decision gives the U.S. Commerce Department — which approved the duties last month — the green light to impose tariffs as high as 118 percent on tubular goods, and is expected to boost the domestic business. It’s a victory for Iron Range miners and mining companies, who staged a large “Save Our Steel” rally earlier this summer to draw attention to the issue and support government sanctions against steel imports.

“This was a resounding victory for the domestic steelmakers,” said Phillip Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association, which represents a number of North American steelmakers.

South Korea’s “oil country tubular goods” (OCTG) exports to the United States were worth $818 million in 2013, more than the combined imports of the other countries involved in the case, according to Commerce data.

“The major player here is South Korea at the end of the day, and we’re very happy with the result,” Bell added.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, D-Crosby, who represents the Iron Range, said he had pushed the White House, Commerce Department and International Trade Commission to impose sanctions against subsidized, imported steel. Nolan also introduced legislation demanding U.S.-made steel be used in federally funded projects.

“This is wonderfully good news,” Nolan told the News Tribune on Friday in Duluth. “The evidence was on our side from the beginning. They did the right thing.”

“This is a significant victory for hardworking miners in Minnesota and across the country, and I’m pleased that the ITC heeded our calls for action,” U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said in a news release. “Through the generations, our miners on the Range have proven they can compete with anybody in the world when it comes to providing quality steel. These new penalties will help crack down on illegal trade practices and protect steelworker jobs.”

American steel companies, including U.S. Steel, lodged a complaint in 2013 after imports of the pipes used in the oil and gas industry surged, as foreign manufacturers sought to cash in on booming U.S. shale gas drilling.

OCTG imports doubled last year and accounted for nearly two-thirds of the U.S. market, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute, an industry group.

On Friday afternoon, after the ruling, U.S. Steel was trading up more than 2 percent at about $37.80 per share.

The companies said that OCTG imports sold cheaply using unfair government subsidies had harmed their business, dragged prices down and triggered job cuts.

Foreign manufacturers countered that they do not supply enough pipe to threaten the U.S. industry, and instead blamed the lower prices on U.S. producers increasing supply.

U.S. trade officials are working their way through as many as eight disputes involving various steel products.

Friday’s decision probably will boost confidence in the American steel industry in the outcome of a current case involving steel-rolled pipes from Russia.

U.S. steel producers have accused Russia of flooding the market with cheap flat-rolled steel, and want the Commerce Department to end a trade deal that they said has failed to stop Russia from dumping cheap steel.