U.S. to Slap Tariffs on Chinese Steel Pipes

The government said it made a 'final determination' to impose tariffs of between 10.36% and 15.78% following a probe on imports from China of oil country tubular goods.

The U.S.has firmed up plans to impose up to 15% tariffs on imported Chinese steel pipes targeted for wideranging sanctions for alleged unfair subsidies. The Commerce Department said on Nov. 24 it made a "final determination" to impose tariffs of between 10.36% and 15.78% following a probe on imports from China of "oil country tubular goods." These are steel pipes used to deliver oil and gas in the petroleum industry.

Customs officials would be instructed to collect a cash deposit or bond based on these rates pending an ultimate final ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission on January 7, the department said.

"If the ITC makes an affirmative final determination that imports of OCTG from China materially injure, or threaten material injury to, the domestic industry, Commerce will issue a CVD (countervailing duty) order," a department statement said. The department pursued an investigation into the case after complaints from various U.S. industry groups and unions, including the United States Steel Corp. and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union.

The steel pipes are also being investigated for dumping, moves which China called protectionist. Earlier this month, the department in a "preliminary determination" said anti-dumping tariffs of up to 99% would be slapped on the pipes, saying they were sold in the U.S. at prices ranging from up to 99.14% less than normal value. The department will make a "final determination" in March.

From 2006 to 2008, imports of such pipes from China increased 203% by volume, the department said. They were valued at $2.6 billion last year.

China said it "firmly opposes the abuse of protectionism and will take measures to seriously protect the interests of the domestic industry." It called the U.S. tariffs "discriminatory" steps that would "have a serious impact on the Chinese steel industry's exports."

But the United Steelworkers (USW) union hailed the move as "an overdue message for thousands of American laid off workers that trade laws are being enforced."

In September, the U.S. announced it would slap duties on Chinese-made tires to protect local U.S. industry, sparking the first major trade spat under Barack Obama's 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. Chinese leader Hu Jintao told Obama during a visit to Beijing this month that they needed to "oppose and reject protectionism in all its manifestations." Hu added the two sides would need continued "consultations on an equal footing to properly resolve economic and trade frictions." Both sides said they opposed protectionism in a written joint statement.

Obama voiced U.S. worries that China's yuan currency is being kept artificially low to boost Chinese exports.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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