Some tin mill imports are “unfairly priced” and “subsidised” says US government agency

The United States Department of Commerce (DoC), which focuses on unfair trade practices outside the US, has determined that tin mill products imported into the US from Canada, China, Germany, and the Republic of Korea are unfairly priced, and, in the case of China, also subsidised.

In the DoC’s final deliberations on its investigations into tin mill imports exactly a year after a petition filed by US steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Steelworkers union, it also concluded that in line with its preliminary findings tin mill products from the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom are not being “dumped” into the US market. These countries will not face any tariffs and investigations are now closed.

As a result, the DoC has set a tariff of 5.27% on Canadian tinplate imports, 6.88% on imports from Germany, and an import duty of 2.69% on most South Korean imports, with the exception of KG Dongbu Steel. The anti-dumping element of the tariff on China is 122.52%, while Baoshan Iron & Steel Co also faces a ‘subsidy rate’ of 649.48% and the rest of China 331.88%.

The DoC stated: “Commerce’s final determinations affirm the preliminary determinations with the exception of its investigation into imports of Korean tin mill products. As part of these audits, one Korean company submitted corrections which resulted in changes to Commerce’s dumping calculations and an affirmative final finding of dumping.”

The DoC is responsible for investigating antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) cases, while the International Trade Commission (ITC), an independent agency, is examining whether domestic industry has been “materially harmed or threatened” by “unfairly traded imports”.

Both agencies will need to agree before a trade remedy order and final duties can be imposed.

Canada’s trade minister Mary Ng expressed “disappointment” in the decision, saying: “The Canadian steel industry is a reliable partner of US customers and plays a crucial role in the North American supply, manufacturing and delivery systems.”

Vowing to defend the interests of Canadian steelworkers and industry, she warned that supply chains between the countries would be weakened and that inflation would worsen on both sides of the border.

On 4 January, the ITC heard submissions from both sides on the complex issue including Democrat Senator Joe Manchin who attributed the loss of 300 jobs at Cleveland Cliffs Weirton facility in June 2023 to “unfairly traded tin and chromium-coated sheet steel products”.

Claiming that market share was being taken from domestic producers, causing their order books to “drop dramatically”, he said: “The increase in imports from Canada, China, and Germany accounted for nearly half of one year’s production at Cleveland-Cliffs’ facility in Weirton, West Virginia.”

However, David Chavern, chief executive of the Consumer Brands Association, said: “Imports of tin mill steel are critical to ensuring the availability and continued viability of manufacturing cans, food, personal care and household products here in the United States because the domestic industry, including petitioner Cleveland-Cliffs, has refused to make steel that meets the quality and width specifications required by downstream users.”

Nearly 30 trade and industry organisations, including canmakers, are opposing the petition, arguing that canned food prices would increase as a result and that up to 40,000 manufacturing jobs could be lost.

The ITC will make its decision in a vote on the case in February.

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