BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Community's top trade official accused U.S. steel companies yesterday of "harassing" world trade by launching a wave of suits charging foreign steelmakers with unfair trade practices.
EC Trade Commissioner Frans Andriessen said he will seek immediate top-level consultations with the Bush administration after major U.S. steel companies filed 84 petitions with the U.S. government Tuesday against foreign steelmakers, including 38 from seven EC countries.
The U.S. steel producers asked the government to impose penalty duties on about 6.5 million net tons a year of sheet and plate imports. They charged that foreign suppliers are selling the products at dumped or unfairly low prices and that 13 foreign governments are subsidizing some of the shipments.
Separately, U.S., Canadian and Mexican steel industry leaders are to meet in Washington July 9 to discuss the outlook for North American free trade in steel. The Canadians and Mexicans are expected to use the occasion to discuss the U.S. industry's claims that those two countries are dumping flat-rolled steel products in the United States.
Canadian producers have been accused of dumping an array of flat-rolled steel products. Mexican producers, the U.S. companies allege, are dumping a smaller range of such products, but the companies charge the Mexican government also is offering some Mexican producers unfair subsidies.
Mr. Andriessen said the U.S. steel industry's calls for anti-dumping and countervailing duties were a "clear attempt to harass normal trade flows." He urged the United States to resume negotiations to renew the multilateral steel agreement that expired March 31.
The U.S. petitions against EC producers cover $800 million a year in exports from Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. They account for half of the community's sales to the United States and a third of the imports targeted in the 84 petitions.
Eurofer, the EC steel industry association, said the U.S. petitions could lead to "a trade war" and "sabotage" U.S.-EC efforts to negotiate an international steel accord reducing industry subsidies and providing for free trade.
South Korea's steel industry also assailed the U.S. steel industry petitions.