WASHINGTON, May 23 (Reuters) - American steel executives said on Tuesday that a Trump administration national security review of their industry could provide relief from imports that dozens of U.S. Commerce Department anti-dumping cases have only partly offered.
The probe could result in broader protections that solve a "whack-a-mole" problem of shutting out unfairly traded imports from China or India only to see shipments increase from elsewhere or transshipped through third countries, said Thomas Gibson, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute, a major industry trade group.
Gibson told a news conference during the industry's annual policy meeting in Washington that imports so far this year were making up about 26 percent of U.S. market demand this year, versus 25 percent last year.
He said China was on pace to produce 850 million tons of steel this year, up from about 808 million tons last year, despite pledges to eliminate up to 150 million tons of capacity amid flat or declining domestic demand.
"Their production seems to be going up, with the excess going to hit the export markets," Gibson said. "That's harming market opportunities and creating pressure for transshipment or conversion for that product to find its way into the United States."
The steel national security review under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 could lead to broad duties or other restrictions on imports if it finds that the industry's ability to supply national defense needs may be compromised under current trade conditions.
Executives of both domestic and foreign steelmakers are expected to present their views on the probe on Wednesday at a Commerce Department hearing on the "232" investigation
"You have to have a healthy steel industry in order to have a viable national security," Nucor Corp Chief Executive John Ferriola told Reuters. "If you're in an armed conflict, God forbid, do you really want our soldiers in Humvees being protected by steel that's made in another country, possibly the one we're in hostilities with?"
Tracy Porter, executive vice president of steel scrap recycler and reinforcing bar producer Commercial Metals Co said the probe could allow the industry to gain some relief without first having to prove that it had suffered injuries like it does in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Peter Cooney)