JAPANESE STEEL INDUSTRY CRITICAL OF U.S. ANNOUNCEMENT OF PRELIMI

ary Steel 
                           Dumping Margins 
NEW YORK, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- "The Commerce Department's announcement
does not tell the real story of Japanese steel exports to the U.S.," Fujio
Ono, President, NKK America Inc. and Chairman of the Japan Steel Information
Center, stated today in response to the U.S. Commerce Department's release of
preliminary margin calculations on imports of hot-rolled steel.  "Japan's 1998
steel exports were the result of market conditions, and the market, not
government-imposed restrictions, should dictate future U.S.-Japan steel trade. 
"The claims about the dire situation of the U.S. industry, the role of
imports and the supposed need for import restrictions are unjustified,
ill-considered and counterproductive.  As this case moves to the independent
U.S. International Trade Commission, we look forward to an objective review of
the U.S. steel market and industry that reaches the same conclusions." 
Mr. Ono emphasized the key role of the U.S. steel industry itself in the
1998 import situation.  "During the first half of 1998, demand for steel sheet
was at a record high level and U.S. steelmakers were operating at maximum
capacity.  U.S. steel mills dramatically increased their shipments of higher
value-added products like cold-rolled or corrosion-resistant steel.  They
created a supply cap for hot-rolled steel. 
"U.S. steel mills and U.S. consumers turned to Japan and other countries
to fill that gap, ordering millions of tons of foreign steel.  U.S. domestic
demand created this situation.  Analysts estimate that American steel mills
bought as much as 25 percent of 1998 U.S. steel imports. 
"U.S. steel mills and other consumers kept ordering foreign steel into
last summer in anticipation of a record 1998 and more of the same in 1999.
That steel took four to six months to arrive in the U.S.  Meanwhile, U.S.
demand for steel fell late last summer because of the General Motors strike,
lower oil prices which reduced demand for tubular steel, and excess
inventories.  Once demand fell, new orders of Japanese steel also declined
quickly and dramatically, well before dumping cases were filed on
September 30.  Steel already ordered arrived after the market weakened and
continued to arrive for a few months.  Recent data confirm this." 
Mr. Ono said Japanese exports to the U.S. fell month by month since
September, reflecting a sharp drop off in orders in the third quarter.  This
began to show up in December U.S. import numbers for Japan, which were down
47 percent from November and hot-rolled steel imports were down even more.
This reflects the fact that most imports "still in the pipeline" had arrived
by December. 
"As Japan's steel companies predicted months ago, market forces are
working to lower imports without government intervention," Mr. Ono concluded.
 

SOURCE  Japan Steel Information Center 
-0-                             02/12/99 
/CONTACT:  C. Butler of Japan Steel Information Center, 212-687-2481/ 
CO:  Japan Steel Information Center
ST:  New York, Japan
IN:  MNG
SU:  ECO 
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