Antidumping tariffs will keep China, India and other countries from flooding the U.S. market with hot-rolled steel for at least another five years.
The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Tuesday that revoking existing duties on hot-rolled steel products from six foreign countries would cause economic damage to U.S. steelmakers and harm steelworkers, at least for the foreseeable future. The federal agency will continue to impose antidumping and countervailing tariffs on steel from China, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Thailand and Ukraine.
"The decision made today by the ITC is a positive step in the right direction," said U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind. "My unwavering commitment to protecting and advancing steel and manufacturing jobs throughout Northwest Indiana will continue."
Such tariffs raise prices on hot-rolled steel imports, to offset subsidies from foreign governments that allow foreign steelmakers to sell the metal in the United States for less than what it costs to make.
"I appreciate the ITC making the right decision and maintaining the existing protections against unfairly traded imports of hot-rolled steel," said U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. "The steel industry supports over 150,000 jobs in Indiana and is a critical component in our nation's manufacturing sector. While good trade policies can create jobs and fuel economic growth, trade only works when everyone plays by the same rules."
Most of the major steel plants in Northwest Indiana make hot-rolled steel, which is one of the industry's largest products. The metal gets used in cars, trains, appliances and a host of other ways.
Donnelly and a group of several lawmakers – including Sens. Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill. – had urged the commission to keep existing tariffs in place. U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., and Todd Young, R-Ind., also argued the struggling steel industry needed protection from unfairly subsidized imports, in violation of international trade agreements.
"Steel has been the backbone of American and Hoosier manufacturing for decades," said Rokita, a Munster native. "I was honored to be able to testify on behalf of the thousands of steelworkers in our state. I support free and fair trade, which is why we must insist that our trading partners keep their promises."
The American Iron and Steel Institute heralded the ruling as an important step toward ensuring the enforcement of trade laws against unfairly subsidized steel imports.
"The ability of American steel manufacturers to compete in the global marketplace is adversely impacted by foreign unfair trade practices and the flood of imports we have seen in the past few years," the association said in a statement. "The U.S. government must keep our laws against unfair trade strong."
The U.S. consumption of hot-rolled steel plunged by 43.2 percent between 2007 and 2009, and still has not recovered to pre-recession levels.
At the same time, the six countries in question have added huge volumes of steelmaking capacity, more than the market can bear, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Together, they have an estimated 105 net tons of unused hot-rolling capacity, at a time when U.S. production is already well under capacity.
"These orders are the last line of defense for American's steel companies and their workers in the face of illegal trade practices," said Scott Paul, president for the Alliance of American Manufacturing.