WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) has signed on to a bipartisan letter with 18 other Senators to the Chairman of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in advance of an April 6 hearing to determine whether hot-rolled steel imports from Brazil, Japan, and Russia are having a negative impact on the domestic hot rolled steel industry.
“The steel industry has been hard hit in the past by unfair trading practices, resulting in the loss of thousands of good-paying, middle-class jobs,” said Senator Cardin. “Steel imports from Brazil, Japan, and Russia are once again affecting the U.S. steel industry, and I urge ITC to act to provide relief that will help level the playing field.”
In March, RG Steel purchased the steel facility at Sparrows Point in Baltimore from Severstal. RG is planning an organized resumption of operations via its hot strip mill at Sparrows Point. The blast furnace at Sparrows Point facility is expected to begin production in May 2011.
The letter to the U.S. International Trade Commission was also signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dan Coats (R-IN), Bob P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Boozman (R-AR), Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Shelby (D-AL), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Tom Harkin (D-IA), and Al Franken (D-MN).
The full text of the letter is below:
Chairman Deanna Tanner Okun
U.S. International Trade Commission
500 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20436
Re: Hot-Rolled Flat-Rolled Steel Products from Brazil, Japan, and Russia
Inv. Nos. 701-TA-384 and 731-TA-806-808 (Review)
Dear Chairman Okun:
On April 6, 2011, the International Trade Commission will hold the final injury hearing on hot-rolled steel from Brazil, Japan, and Russia. The U.S. hot-rolled steel industry and its suppliers play a critical role in our nation’s economy and is an important employer in each of our states.
Unfairly traded imports of hot-rolled steel from Brazil, Japan, and Russia negatively impacted the domestic industry in the 1990s. In response to this, the domestic industry sought relief from these imports under our antidumping and countervailing duty laws by filing petitions with the appropriate agencies of the U.S. government. These petitions resulted in trade relief against all three countries and, consequently, a very large reduction in unfairly-traded imports from these countries. This relief is just as important now as it was a decade ago. We urge the Commission to continue this relief so that the domestic industry does not once again face the kind of devastating harm that it suffered before trade relief was provided.
At their peak, in a single year, imports from Brazil, Japan, and Russia totaled 7 million tons. As a result, their share of the U.S. merchant market more than quadrupled, from 5 percent in 1996 to 21 percent in 1998. Although U.S. demand for hot-rolled was quite strong at the time, the enormous import surge reduced the profitability of the domestic industry to nominal levels – leading to the subsequent collapse of the hot-rolled steel industry within a few years, as a large portion of the industry was forced into bankruptcy as the economy weakened.
While the performance of the industry has improved as economic growth has resumed following the recent recession, the industry is still in a fragile state. Furthermore, demand in many end-use sectors of the domestic hot-rolled industry, such as construction and automotive applications, remains weak, with no reasonable prospect for significant improvement any time soon.
We urge you to extend trade relief for this important industry, and thank you for the opportunity for allowing us to express these concerns to you and your colleagues at the Commission.