Seven U.S. standard steel pipe producers urged President George Bush to restrict surging imports of competing products from China through a special mechanism that he has declined to use before. They were joined in the effort by the United Steelworkers (USW) and separate letters signed by 61 members of the U.S. House and 20 U.S. Senators.

Wheatland Tube Co., the largest U.S. standard pipe producer, already has been forced to lay off 250 workers at plants in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Arkansas, said Mark Magno, the company's vice president of marketing. “Without very significant ... relief that dramatically reduces Chinese imports and allows us to increase production, we will be forced to permanently shut down the Sharon (Pennsylvania) plant with the loss of 300 additional jobs,” Magno said.

The industry wants Bush to curb imports of circular welded non-alloy steel pipes from China to no more than 90,000 tons per year, compared to 267,468 tons in 2004 and an estimated 370,000 tons this year. Targeted pipes range from 3/8 inch to 16 inches and are used in a variety of plumbing, heating, sprinkler and industrial applications.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) voted 4-2 in October that higher imports of steel pipe from China threatened to disrupt the domestic market. Under Section 421 of the U.S. trade law passed by Congress in 2000, the ITC forwards its recommendation to the President, who was due to make a decision by Dec. 30, 2005.

The U.S. Senate letter states: “The Chinese government has refused to respect international trade obligations by continuing to manipulate its currency, violating intellectual property rights, and by providing domestic and export subsidies.” It also adds, “In spite of massive surges of imports from China, which reached $22.7 billion in just the month of August 2005, no American industry or worker has yet received relief under this law.”

The affected companies who filed the petition were: Allied Tube & Conduit; IPSCO Tubulars; Maruichi American; Maverick Tube; Sharon Tube; Western Tube & Conduit; and Wheatland Tube. According to the industry, 400 workers have been laid off this year and annualized Chinese imports of standard pipe will reach 400,000 tons from a level of 10,000 tons in 2002.

“Sunset Review” For Welded Stainless Pipe

In another ITC ruling affecting the PVF industry, the Commission voted on Dec. 5 to conduct full five-year (“sunset”) reviews concerning the antidumping duty orders on imports of certain welded stainless steel pipe from Korea and Taiwan.

The Uruguay Round Agreements Act requires the Department of Commerce to revoke an antidumping or countervailing duty order, or terminate a suspension agreement, after five years unless the Department of Commerce and the ITC determine that revoking the order or terminating the suspension agreement would be likely to lead to continuation or recurrence of dumping or subsidies (Commerce) and of material injury (ITC) within a reasonably foreseeable time.

The Commission's full review includes a public hearing and issuance of questionnaires.