US files more anti-circumvention cases against Vietnamese flat-rolled steel

US mills have filed duty-circumvention cases versus Vietnamese cold-rolled and coated flat-rolled steel made from South Korean substrate.

The cases mirror petitions filed successfully against Vietnamese imports of the same products made from Chinese substrate.

The petitions targeting Vietnamese cold-rolled and coated steel made from Chinese steel were launched in November 2016 but not decided until May of this year.

US mills have alleged that South Korean steelmakers adopted the same tactics as Chinese steel mills to circumvent duties on South Korean cold-rolled and coated flat-rolled steel.

“Allowing Korea[n] producers to continue this tactic unabated would seriously undermine the effectiveness of the [duty orders] and should be addressed immediately,” the US mills said in their petition, which is dated Tuesday June 12 and addressed to US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

South Korean coated flat-rolled steel was hit with anti-dumping duties of 8.75-47.49% and countervailing duties of 1.19% in 2016. Korean cold-rolled, meanwhile, was in the same year hit with anti-dumping margins of 20.33-34.33% and countervailing margins of 3.91-58.36%.

US mills want the Commerce Department to impose similar duties on Vietnamese cold-rolled and coated made with Korean substrate. They also want Commerce to launch an inquiry “as soon as possible” and to issue a preliminary determination at the same time it decides whether to start a probe.

Domestic mills contend that the anti-dumping and countervailing duties versus South Korean cold-rolled and coated flat-rolled steel succeeded in reducing imports from the Asian nation. But they argue that void left by South Korea was in short order filled by exports from Vietnam.

Case in point: The US imported 310,665 tonnes of galvanized flat-rolled steel – a key category of coated products – from South Korea in 2015. That number dropped 38.2% to 191,959 tonnes in 2017, according to Commerce figures. Over the same period, imports of Vietnamese galvanized increased nearly sixfold from 22,295 tonnes in 2015 to 124,799 tonnes in last year.

A similar trend played out in the cold-rolled sector, where US imports of South Korean cold-rolled tumbled to 98,224 tonnes in 2017, down nearly 40% from 163,032 tonnes in 2016. Imports of Vietnamese cold-rolled, meanwhile, skyrocketed from 2.70 tonnes in 2014 to 396,096 tonnes in 2016 – a year in which the Southeast Asian nation was the largest offshore source of cold-rolled in the US market, per Commerce data.

Duties are also merited because Vietnam had no hot-rolled steel production capacity until Taiwan’s Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp. began production in May 2017, US mills said in their petitions. “As this mill is still in the ramp-up phase, most [cold-rolled and coated] that is made in Vietnam must still be made from imported substrate,” they said.

The petition was filed by US flat-rolled steelmakers California Steel Industries (CSI), Steel Dynamics Inc. (SDI), Nucor, ArcelorMittal USA, and U.S. Steel. CSI and SDI are represented by Schagrin Associated, Nucor by Wiley Rein, ArcelorMittal by Kelley Drye & Warren, and U.S. Steel by Cassidy Levy Kent (USA).

American Metal Market's price assessment for cold-rolled coil stands at $50 per hundredweight ($1,000 per ton), up 19% from $42 per cwt at the beginning of the year and up 27.4% from $39.25 per cwt a year ago.

The assessment for hot-dipped galvanized base has followed a similar trend. It is at $49.5 per cwt, up 17.9% from the beginning of the year and up 26.9% from $39 per cwt a year ago.

Prices for cold-rolled and coated have been driven sharply higher by trade actions - and in particular by the Trump administration's Section 232 tariffs and quotas versus steel imports.

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