ITC rules U.S. firms unhurt

Trade panel's finding blocks punitive tariffs on 6 nations' exports

Steel industry

May 11, 1999|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

A U.S. trade agency ruled yesterday that stainless-steel round wire allegedly "dumped" on the U.S. market by makers in Japan, South Korea and four other countries has not injured U.S. manufacturers, a setback for an industry that has launched a counterattack on cheap imports.

The case was filed by Cockeysville-based Handy & Harman Specialty Wire Group Inc. and nine other companies. Specialty Wire is a unit of Handy & Harman, based in New York.

"We are deeply disappointed in the negative finding of injury," said George Kurisky, a vice president at Handy & Harman who also is chairman of the U.S. Stainless Wire Action Committee, an industry coalition.

"We continue to believe that the data prove injury to a competitive and efficient American industry and the proper result is a finding of injury by reason of these unfairly traded imports," Kurisky said. "We will review the written determination when it is published within the next two weeks to determine whether we should appeal the decision to the Court of International Trade."

Yesterday's decision was made by the autonomous International Trade Commission, which monitors the impact of trade on U.S. industries. The commission voted 6-0 to block the collection of punitive tariffs that the Commerce Department had set on the products. These duties, which would have ranged from 3 percent to 36 percent, would have made it extremely difficult for Japan's Nippon Seisen Co., South Korea's Korea Sangsa Co. and Spain's Inoxfill SA -- among others -- to sell stainless-steel round wire in the United States.

A finding of injury to the U.S. industry was necessary for the tariffs to take effect.

The U.S. competitors of these foreign steelmakers filed a dumping case against these firms and others with the Commerce Department and the ITC in March 1998. The round wire is used to make such things as springs in aerosol cans, auto parts and industrial machinery. Imports from the targeted countries totaled less than $37 million in 1997, although industry officials say imports from all countries add about $100 million to a $300 million industry.

Dumping is defined as a foreign company or country exporting its products at prices below what those same products sell for in the home market. Other common trade complaints can include prices that are below cost or ultra-low prices made possible by government subsidies. All three situations violate U.S. trade laws.

The U.S. steel industry also has filed dumping cases against foreign countries in the hot-rolled steel and steel-plate markets. The hot-rolled steel case, which to date has gone in favor of the U.S. producers, directly affects Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point Division, where the company is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize its plant to put it at the forefront of the steel industry.

But company leaders and officials with the United Steelworkers of America union have said no amount of investment is sufficient to deal with imports that are not fairly priced.

The publicity and political pressure related to the dumping cases has caused imports to ease.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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