Steel imports plunged by 40 percent through the end of February, the most recent month for which data was available, but the market share of cheap and often illegally-traded overseas steel products has crept up again.

The United States imported 2.2 million net tons of steel in February or 16.5 percent less than in January, according to preliminary U.S. Census data. That included 2 million tons of finished steel, or about 6.7 percent less than in the previous month.

Steel imports fell by 40 percent in the first two months of this year as compared to the first two months of 2015, and finished imports fell by 34 percent, according to the most recent data from the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Imports caused more than 1,000 steelworker layoffs in the Region last year. But the imports have started to fall as a result of trade cases, tariffs and new laws that empower the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to crack down on dumping, or selling exported steel for a loss or less abroad than at home. That is an illegal practice under international trade laws.

Imports in part will persist since major steelmakers like ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel will continue to import steel themselves, to honor deals they made with foreign steelmakers or from other ArcelorMittal mills overseas, New York City-based analyst Charles Bradford said. And tariffs against steel from certain countries will likely encourage others to export to the United States, and they'll need to keep prices low at first to win business.

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Finished steel imports grabbed 26 percent of the market share in the U.S. in February, less than last year’s record 29 percent but more than the 23 percent share they held in January, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Tin plate imports soared 53 percent in February, while reinforcing bars were up 32 percent. Sheets and strip and metal coatings also posted double-digit gains.

The countries that are exporting the most steel to the United States are South Korea, Turkey, Germany and China. So far this year, exports from all those countries have declined significantly as compared to 2015.



Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.