(Adds detail on stainless steel sinks)
WASHINGTON, March 21 U.S. steel companies on
Thursday urged Congress and the White House to take action
against what they said was a flood of unfairly traded steel from
China, partly by reforming U.S. trade laws to make it easier to
win import protection.
"The government of China's continued subsidization of its
steel industry and manipulation of its currency continues to
threaten our future," Edward Kurasz, an executive vice president
at Allied Tube & Conduit, told a congressional panel.
The plea came shortly before the U.S. International Trade
Commission approved steep punitive duties on stainless steel
sinks from China that the Commerce Department had found were
unfairly priced and subsidized.
The decision was a victory for Elkay Manufacturing. The
Illinois company has struggled in the face of rising imports
from China, which totaled nearly $118 million in 2011.
Kurasz urged Congress to pass legislation directing the
Commerce Department to treat undervalued currencies as a subsidy
under trade law. That would open the door for more cases seeking
countervailing duties on Chinese imports.
He also called for Congress to reform the U.S. International
Trade Commission, which last year rejected industry requests for
anti-dumping and countervailing duties on galvanized steel wire
and circular weld pipe from a variety of countries.
"We are very concerned that the commissioners are not
adhering to the laws as written by Congress," Kurasz said.
The Commerce Department found illegal pricing or subsidies
in both cases, but the ITC blocked duties "because domestic
industries were showing modest improvement due to increases in
demand after the depth of the recession," he said.
Kurasz also urged the U.S. Trade Representative's office to
work with other governments to bring a World Trade Organization
case against China for subsidizing its domestic steel companies
in ways that violate global trade rules.
John Ferriola, president of Nucor Corp, told the panel that
China has 35 percent more steel-making capacity than it needs to
meet domestic demand. Much of China's extra production is
exported to the United States as part of a "surge" that also
includes steel from Turkey, South Korea and others, he said.
"Last year, steel imports increased 17 percent from 2011 and
a whopping 38 percent from 2010 ... Steel imports were up in
every major product area and from most major steel producing
countries," Ferriola said.
The steel company chief also said India, Egypt, and Brazil
have all recently taken actions to restrict steel imports,
putting further pressure on the U.S. market.
But "China is by far the worst offender. Its highly
subsidized steel industry is government owned and controlled,
and its market remains heavily distorted and closed to outside
competition," Ferriola said.
(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Christopher Wilson)