Rising steel imports spur calls for action in Washington
Updated: 2015-03-18 05:50
By PAUL WELITZKIN in NEW YORK(China Daily USA)
Steel imports to the United States are increasing and so are calls from the industry for Washington to take action against overseas competitors.
That action may include a possible anti-dumping complaint, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper reported on March 16 that the CEOs of major US steel producers are planning to testify later this month at a hearing in Washington about what they see as a flood of imported steel.
Imported steel into the US continues to rise even as the domestic industry furloughs thousands of employees. The US steel industry is also being hindered by reduced demand due to a slowing of drilling for natural gas and oil from shale projects that have been put on hold as crude prices have collapsed.
In an e-mail statement to China Daily on Tuesday, the American Iron and Steel Institute said that imports surged to an historic record market share last year. "US finished steel imports from all countries increased 36 percent in 2014 and captured 28 percent of the US market last year -- the highest import market share in history -- compared to only 23 percent in 2013," AISI said. "Our industry continues to evaluate whether the situation warrants trade case filings."
The institute said "the very high level of Chinese steel exports in 2014 and 2015 are of great concern'' to the US steel industry. AISI said China's global exports reached a record level of 93.78 million metric tons of steel in 2014, a 51 percent increase over the previous year. "US imports of Chinese steel increased by an even larger 68 percent over the same period and China was the second largest source of steel exports to the United States," according to the institute.
For the month of January 2015, data from AISI and the US government show other countries are exporting more steel to the US than China.
AISI's data on imports of finished steel mill products for January shows South Korea, Turkey and Japan with greater exports into the US than China's 198,000 net tons. According to preliminary data from the Census Bureau's Imports for Consumption of Steel Products from Selected Countries and Areas, Brazil, Canada and South Korea exported more steel into the US in January than China's 180,359 metric tons.
Commenting on the steel data from the Census Bureau, Adam Hersh, a senior economist at the Roosevelt Institute and a visiting scholar at the Columbia University Initiative for Policy Dialogue in New York, said in an e-mail to China Daily that he believes it is for final goods.
"Intermediate Chinese steel goods are very often traded through third countries where the goods may or may not undergo some qualitative transformation, for example rolling threads on or heat-treating pipe goods, and then are re-exported. These are pretty minor value-adds, but they obscure the real origin of content in the statistics. The US shouldn't be concerned about imports as a matter of course; they should be concerned about ensuring an open, level-playing field on which the entire world's steel producers can compete," he said.
China has said that it produces too much steel and has been taking steps to address the situation. Steel exports from China, the world's largest producer, rose to a record in January as the country shipped 10.29 million metric tons of steel products, a 52 percent rise from the same month of the previous year, according to data released by the customs administration in Beijing.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said last month the bloated steel industry will continue to experience tough times this year despite years of government efforts to address overcapacity in the sector.
Yet, the industry continues to produce more.
"The steel industry is deemed strategic for national security and economic security purposes. Dealing with overcapacity has been a goal in the last two Five-Year Plans, but we have seen very little progress in rationalizing the industry in China," said Hersh.
He also noted that steel is a major input used in many other areas critical to China's overall economic growth such as infrastructure, real estate, and a wide range of manufactured goods. Overcapacity keeps steel prices low for these industries that consume steel, helping keep investment and output prices cheaper than they otherwise would be.
The Wall Street Journal report said a hearing in Washington might be a prelude to the launching of an anti-dumping complaint with the International Trade Commission. Dumping is the export of a product at a price that is below the cost of its production.
According to the newspaper, the China Iron and Steel Association have labeled previous efforts to curtail Chinese exports as protectionist firstname.lastname@example.org