WEIRTON - The U.S. International Trade Commission is keeping tariffs on Japanese tin- and chromium-coated steel imports in place.
The ITC said Tuesday it would keep the duties on the Japanese imports in place, saying that "revoking the existing antidumping duty order on tin- and chromium-coated steel sheet from Japan would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of material injury within a reasonably foreseeable time.
The announcement drew immediate applause from the United Steelworkers who have long complained that overseas competitors have been dumping steel in U.S. markets at bargain-basement prices, decimating the U.S. steel industry.
USW President Leo Gerard said the ITC's 6-0 vote "sends a strong message for support of the domestic tin mill industry and the current anti-dumping order on imports from Japan."
"If the duties were allowed to expire, a flood of tin sheet imports would have quickly depressed fair prices, putting at risk the jobs of 3,000 USW-represented steelworkers and the American (steel) industry," Gerard said in a release issued by the USW.
Major tin-coated steel producers with a USW rank-and-file includes ArcelorMittal, which now owns the Weirton steel mill, the beleaguered RG Steel, which has operations in West Virginia and Ohio, and Ohio Coatings Co. in Yorkville, as well as U.S. Steel Corp. and USS-Posco Industries.
Mark Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911 in Weirton, said the vote "was a great victory" for the domestic steel industry, pointing out that even with all the cost-cutting and efficiency-enhancing changes that had been implemented in the mill over the last decade, if Japanese producers were permitted to dump tin mill products in the U.S. again, "Weirton would be seriously threatened."
"It gives us another five years of relief," he said. "It's a significant win for us, because it's going to prevent the Japanese from illegally dumping product in our market. We're a tin-only facility, the second largest tin producer in North America, so it gives us an opportunity to compete fairly.
It's excellent news for domestic steel producers, specifically Weirton.
Glyptis said he's testified before the ITC on tin cases four times, "and this was most difficult case."
"We've had over 10 years of relief now, and we had to show that if the tariffs were lifted, the Japanese likely would dump product into our marketplace," he said. "They're selling their tin product in Japan at significantly a higher price than in this country."
Glyptis said the ruling offers domestic producers "a real opportunity to continue to compete under fair circumstances on a global basis."
"No one can compete if you give a company an unfair advantage dumping steel ... no matter what you do, you can't compete. The ITC got this right, in my view," he said.
He said the Weirton mill has spent the past decade reconfiguring itself, and "things are much better."
"This is a really significant (win) for tin producers," he said, pointing out the company's order book is solid and should remain so for the balance of 2012.
"It's getting better," he added. "Our plant still employs almost 1,000 people. We're doing some additional hiring, adjusting current levels to the order book, we're seeing retirements and (hirings). We're kind of on an upswing at this time, producing an excellent product. We could be better, we need to continue to improve, but this gives us a chance to compete under fair circumstances."
In its 180-page analysis of the case, meanwhile, the ITC pointed out that, "absent other means on which to compete, we conclude that Japanese producers would attempt to win sales contracts through aggressive pricing (underselling), as they also did prior to the imposition of the order ... (and) the U.S. market bears certain characteristics such that even a few low-priced sales would be felt throughout the entire market in a short period of time."
"We find that the likely volume of subject imports will be significant in the reasonably foreseeable future if the antidumping duty order is revoked," the panel concluded. "Absent competition on non-price factors, Japanese producers are likely to undersell and price aggressively in order to win contracts with purchasers. At these likely aggressive prices, the subject imports would be likely to have significant depressing or suppressing effects on the prices of the domestic like product."