March 5, 2018 / 4:29 PM / in 17 days

U.S. trade panel backs probe into welded pipe imports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday voted to continue anti-dumping and subsidy investigations into imports of large-diameter welded pipe from Canada, China, Greece, India, South Korea and Turkey, it said in a statement.

The U.S. Commerce Department said last month it was examining whether manufacturers from those countries are selling the pipe in the United States at below-market rates or are being unfairly subsidized by their governments.

The trade case comes amidst global trade jitters after U.S. President Donald Trump said last week he would impose broad tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum to protect U.S. national security under a Cold War-era trade law, a move that could raise consumer prices and ignite a trade war.

Imports of the welded steel pipe, used to build oil and gas pipelines, in 2016 totaled $441.4 million from the six countries, department data show.

The probe was launched after a petition from a group of privately held U.S. producers and covers welded carbon and alloy steel pipe larger than 16 inches (406.4 mm) in diameter.

The commission’s decision means the government will begin collecting cash deposits from companies importing the pipe, which can be used to transport oil, gas, slurry, steam or other fluids, liquids or gases.

The investigation is one of around 100 the Trump administration has opened since taking office, which it says are aimed at protecting U.S. manufacturers in global markets.

The Commerce Department estimated that in 2016 imports of large-diameter welded pipe from Canada had a value of $66 million, China $139 million, India $26 million, Greece $70 million, South Korea $150.3 million and Turkey $116.1 million.

It estimated dumping margins at 50.89 percent for Canada, 120.84 percent to 132.63 percent for China, 41.04 percent for Greece, 37.94 percent for India, 16.18 percent and 20.39 percent for South Korea and 66.09 percent for Turkey.

“Dumping” is the practice of selling goods below market price.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to make its preliminary subsidy decision by April 16 and its preliminary dumping determination by June 29.

Trump campaigned on a platform of restoring a level playing field to trade relations, in particular with China. Even before the steel and aluminum tariff proposals, his administration was accused of courting a trade war by vetoing new appeals judges at the World Trade Organization, hobbling the trade dispute settlement system and running the risk that trade friction will explode into tit-for-tat actions.

Reporting by Eric Walsh; Editing by Susan Heavey, Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas

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