The U.S. launched a probe on Oct. 8 to consider slapping almost 100% tariffs on imported steel pipes from China in a move that could widen a trade spat between the two key powers. Washington has decided to "initiate antidumping and countervailing duty investigations on imports" of Chinese "seamless" pipes used to convey water, steam, chemicals, oil products and natural gas, the Commerce Department said.
The pipes were allegedly backed by unfair subsidies. Duties if imposed could reach a whopping 100%. According to a fact sheet provided by the department, the "alleged dumping margin" is 98.37%.
The Commerce Department said the move to consider imposing tariffs on steel pipe imports stemmed from a petition from companies such as the United States Steel Corp. as well as the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.
"If the ITC determines that there is a reasonable indication that imports are materially injuring, or threatening material injury to, the domestic industry, the investigations will continue, and Commerce will be scheduled to make its preliminary CVD (countervailing duty) determination in December 2009 and its preliminary AD (antidumping) determinations in February 2010," the Commerce Deparmtnet said.
From 2006 to 2008, imports of seamless pipes from China increased more than 131% by volume and were valued at an estimated $382 million last year, the department said.
Also last month, the U.S. made a preliminary decision to impose tariffs as much as 31% on another kind of steel pipe imported from China and used mostly in oil and gas wells. It drew a quick and angry response from Beijing, which called it a "protectionist" step.
Just last week, the New York Times reported that Washington had imposed tariffs on imports of solar panels, which had become "too sophisticated" to qualify for duty-free import. China is reputedly the world's biggest solar-panel manufacturer.
And a moth ago President Barack Obama imposed punitive duties on Chinese-made tires, igniting the first trade spat of his presidency. An angry Beijing lodged a complaint at the World Trade Organization and retaliated by launching a probe into possible unfair trade practices involving imports of U.S. car products and chicken meat. Beijing charged that Washington's move violated WTO rules but Obama has denied that it amounted to protectionism.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009