* U.S. Steel among companies seeking import relief
* U.S. energy boom has fueled demand for steel pipe
* Next step is U.S. trade panel vote in mid-August
By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON, July 23 The U.S. Commerce Department
on Tuesday launched one of its biggest trade investigations in
years into charges that manufacturers in South Korea, India and
seven other countries are selling steel pipe used by oil and
natural gas producers at unfairly low prices in the United
Imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from the nine
countries totaled nearly $1.8 billion in 2012, more than double
their total in 2010, as rising U.S. oil and natural gas
production have increased demand for the pipe.
In 2010, the United States slapped duties on imports of OCTG
from China after they hit about $2.8 billion in 2008. That
created an opening for the other foreign suppliers.
The latest case targets South Korea, which exported about
$831 million worth of the pipe to the United States last year,
as well as India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia,
Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
U.S. producers are asking for anti-dumping duties as high as
240 percent on India, 158 percent on South Korea, 118 percent on
Thailand and 111 percent on Vietnam to offset what they say is
below market pricing, and lesser but still hefty duties on the
other five countries.
For two countries, Turkey and India, U.S. producers are
seeking additional countervailing duties to offset alledged
The Commerce Department will make a preliminary decision on
countervailing duties in September and on anti-dumping duties in
December. Final decisions will come in 2014.
U.S. companies seeking the relief include U.S. Steel,
which told the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) at a
hearing on Tuesday that it spent $2.1 billion in 2007 to boost
its OCTG production by buying a smaller manufacturer.
But "for three years now, I have heard the same tale from
our salesmen: 'Imports are underselling us. We must lower our
prices or our customers will go elsewhere,'" Doug Matthews, a
senior vice president at U.S. Steel, told the panel.
Under the U.S. system, the Commerce Department investigates
charges of unfair trade and determines whether duties are
appropriate and if so at what level. But the ITC must approve
the probe and has the final word on whether duties are imposed.
The commission will vote in mid-August on whether there is
enough evidence that the imports are injuring U.S. producers for
the Commerce Department to continue with the probe.
Other producers involved in the case include Maverick Tube
Corporation, Energex Tube and TMK IPSCO.
They told the Commission that U.S. demand for OCTG between
2010 and 2012 was the strongest they had seen in 25 years, but
imports prevented them from getting a fair price for their
"While the last few years should have been extremely strong
for Maverick, the import surge deprived us of the benefits of
recovering demand," Brad Lowe, a senior executive at Maverick,
told the ITC. "Imports have taken away sales and have
significantly suppressed and depressed market prices."
Linda Andros, legislative counsel at the United Steelworkers
Union, told the panel that U.S. jobs were at risk.
"If unfair trade is left unchecked, ... there is no doubt
that many of our members that produce these products will begin
being laid off," Andros said.
Scott Barnes, senior vice president at TMK IPSCO, conceded
that OCTG imports have fallen so far in 2013, after rising in
But that's only because "we aggressively fought imports back
by price cutting in the latter part of 2012," Barnes said.