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Judge suspends U.S. Steel’s requested investigation into Chinese steel ban

Gary Works. A judge has suspended U.S. Steel's Section 337 trade case until next year.

An administrative law judge suspended the International Trade Commission investigation into whether all imports of Chinese steel into the United States should be banned, but U.S. Steel is appealing.

U.S. Steel asked the federal government to ban Chinese steel because of price-fixing, stolen trade secrets and tariff avoidance. It filed a Section 337 case in April, when China produced steel at a record daily rate of 2.3 million tons.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, alleged a variety of unfair and illegal trade practices, including ducking out of tariffs by misrepresenting where the steel originally came from, receiving heavy subsidies and unloading surplus steel at prices far lower than it would sell for back home.

Judge Dee Lord ruled last week the investigation doesn’t have to be finished until October 2017. She ordered the International Trade Commission to first notify the U.S. Department of Commerce about U.S. Steel's complaints since the company raised concerns about Chinese steel dumping and illegal subsidies. The U.S. Department of Commerce must review the case, which would delay the investigation.  

She cited preliminary determinations by the Department of Commerce in favor of tariffs against imports of corrosion-resistant and cold-rolled steel.

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“U.S. Steel's antitrust claims explicitly rely upon determinations by the Commission and the Commerce Department that the Chinese government subsidizes the Chinese steel industry, and that Chinese steel manufacturers sell their products at less than fair value,” she wrote in her ruling. “U.S. Steel's false designation of origin claims are based explicitly upon Respondents' alleged evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders issued by the Commerce Department.”

U.S. Steel filed an appeal Thursday. The steelmaker went to the unusual step of requesting a total ban on Chinese steel imports after the Asian country exported a record 112 million tons of steel last year, resulting in an international import crisis and contributing to more than 14,000 layoffs in the U.S. steel industry. 

A U.S. Steel spokeswoman declined to comment on the trade case.

Tamara Browne, of Schagrin Associates and a steel industry lobbyist from Gary, said the ruling would result in a delay.

“It certainly appears that if any action is taken it will take awhile,” she said.

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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.