Photographer: Maurice Tsai/Bloomberg

Chinese Steel Slapped by 236% U.S. Tariff Plan

  • Commerce preliminarily finds India subsidies of up to 7.7%
  • Customs to be instructed to require cash deposits based rates

Imports of some corrosive-resistant steel from China may be taxed as much as 236 percent based on the level of subsidies they receive, according to a preliminary finding by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The department found five Chinese exporters including Angang Group Hong Kong Co. and Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. got subsidies of that amount, it said in an e-mailed statement.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be instructed to require cash deposits based on the subsidy rates. A Baosteel Group Corp. spokesman said the company’s operations are based on market forces.

The preliminary finding is the first decision in three sets of trade cases that U.S. steel producers have filed this year, as a glut of output from foreign producers led by China has pushed down prices to nine-year lows and seen U.S. mills idle 31 percent of capacity. If validated, the decision may end some imports and help lift domestic prices.

“Trade cases will have an impact by limiting tons showing up in the U.S.,” Timna Tanners, an analyst at Bank of America Corp., said Tuesday before the decision was made public. “If you take out the lowest-priced tons in the U.S., those offers going away should tighten the market.”

The move will curb Chinese exports to North America, Wang Yingsheng, deputy secretary-general at the China Iron & Steel Association, said from Beijing, while estimating the U.S. takes only about 3 percent of overseas sales. Shipments are facing increasing trade friction globally and probably won’t exceed 100 million metric tons in 2015, he said by phone. Sales surged 27 percent to 83 million tons in the first nine months.

Surging Imports

The five Chinese companies that were determined to get subsidies of 236 percent didn’t participate in the probe. Another company, Yieh Phui (China) Technomaterial Co., received a subsidy rate of 26.3 percent, the Department of Commerce found.

The U.S. tariff is “an unfair treatment to the Chinese enterprises,” Alex He, spokesman for Baosteel Group, said in a text message in response to questions. “Baosteel’s operation is based on market forces. We hope that we will have an opportunity for fair competition in the U.S. market.” Hebei Iron & Steel Co. declined to comment.

Companies from India were subsidized as much as 7.7 percent, while Italy supported exports by as much as 38.4 percent, according to the preliminary findings. Exports from South Korea received as much as 1.4 percent subsidies, while shipments from Taiwan had minimal support, it said.

On June 3, six domestic steel producers including Nucor Corp. and U.S. Steel Corp. filed cases against anti-corrosive steel from China, South Korea, India, Italy and Taiwan. Imports of the anti-corrosive steel from the five target countries surged by 84 percent in 2014, while imports of all steel products jumped by 38 percent to 40.2 million tons, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nucor shares fell 0.3 percent in New York on Tuesday while U.S. Steel rose 0.9 percent. The latter reported a quarterly loss that was more than three times bigger than the average analyst estimate.

Sending Message

John Ferriola, Nucor’s chief executive officer, said the company believes the duty will have an impact on Chinese steel shipments and it was a good sign for cases still outstanding.

“People were hoping for higher duties,” Lee McMillan, an analyst at Clarksons Platou, said in an interview Tuesday. “It looks like the South Korea ones are pretty much de minimus and there is apparently nothing from Taiwan,” McMillan said “People expected really high ones from the Chinese, so that is in line.”

Anti-corrosive steel is a form of the metal that has been galvanized, coated with zinc, aluminum or other treatments to keep it from rusting.

On Oct. 30, the Department of Commerce found that at the beginning of the investigation, imports jumped from four of the five countries, China, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy. Such a finding of so-called critical circumstances allows the department to enact retroactive duties on those shipments. Commerce is scheduled to issue estimates of anti-dumping duties in the case on Dec. 21.

The decision may suppress further shipments, Tanners said.

“This is a message to other countries that there could be retroactive tariffs,” she said.

(Corrects Baosteel spokesman's name in seventh paragraph.)
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