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Congressman Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., testified on Thursday before the International Trade Commission in favor of tariffs on imports of structural tubing from Korea, Mexico and Turkey.

Local producers of the steel product include Independence Tube, in Chicago; Atlas Tube on the far Southeast side of the city; and Bull Moose, in Elkhart. Northwest Indiana steel mills also make the flat-rolled metal that’s shaped into tube that’s used in oil exploration and energy production.

American steelmakers are pursuing countervailing tariffs of between 11.9 percent and 113.7 percent on rectangular welded carbon steel pipes from abroad.

“American steel is the backbone of our infrastructure. We construct bridges, skyscrapers, and transportation systems with steel produced by hardworking American steelworkers and steel companies,” Visclosky testified at the ITC hearing in Washington, D.C.

“The product we are discussing today, heavy walled rectangular pipes and tubes, are used to construct building frames, support columns, and protective barriers,” he said. “They are used to build truck beds, trailers, and agricultural implements. We cannot continue to allow illegal imports of products that are the foundation of the economy and transportation infrastructure of our communities.”

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Imports captured a record 29 percent of the market share last year, more than when most domestic steelmakers went bankrupt in the early 2000s.

The International Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce will weigh the evidence gathered at this week’s hearing when deciding whether to levy countervailing tariffs, which are designed to offset the difference between what foreign steelmakers sold the metal for in the United States and what the going prices are in their home market. Additional hearings on steel tubing tariffs will take place in September and October.

“While the entire steel industry is facing a constant onslaught of illegal imports, the pipe and tube market has been hit particularly hard,” Visclosky said. “In 2015, imports captured 65 percent of the pipe and tube market share, an 11 percent increase from 2014, while domestic shipments decreased by 38 percent. This is absolutely unacceptable.”

The International Trade Commission already has imposed 42 anti-dumping and countervailing tariffs on steel pipe, tube and fittings, but Visclosky said more needs to be done. Korea, Mexico and Turkey are repeat offenders, and American steelworkers deserve a level playing field without subsidies or dumping for less than what steel can be sold for back home, he said.

“I also would point out that the countries cited in this case are exporting more pipe and tube products into the American market than almost all of our other foreign competitors,” he said. “For example, this past June, the U.S. imported 316,882 metric tons of pipe and tube products. Of those imports, 69,285 metric tons came from Korea, 22,008 metric tons came from Turkey, and 53,057 metric tons came from Mexico.”

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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.