Trade Cases

Dumping Cases Affect Steels Not Manufactured in USA

Written by John Packard

Steel Market Update received a note from trade attorney Lewis E. Leibowitz regarding an “ex parte” memorandum from former Michigan Governor and current President of the Business Rountable, John Engler, about the AD investigation of imports of cold rolled steel from Japan. Mr. Engler was intervening on behalf of Steelcase and their subsidiary PolyVision which manufacturers “white boards” for schools out of their manufacturing facility located in Oklahoma.

Leibowitz told SMU in his note, “…The US producer said its product used certain steel it could not obtain domestically but was nevertheless subject to the case. Commerce explained that there was nothing it could do, at least not right away. This highlights the long-term problem of AD and CVD cases.  If they are effective at excluding competitive steel that is not made in the US, then US steel users must use what they can get or move their production to a country where they can get what they need. Over time, the customer base will shrink, jeopardizing far more jobs than the orders will ever save.” 

In the note to the file, Chris Marsh of the US DOC Enforcement & Compliance office reported that Mr. Engler was attempting to get a special ceramic steel produced by Japan for Steelcase to be excluded from the cold rolled antidumping suit.

The request was denied, at least for the time being as the note indicated Secretary Pritzker explained to the former Michigan Governor:

“Secretary Pritzker explained to Mr. Engler that she had read Mr. Keane’s letter. She noted that. while she was aware only of the circumstances explained in the letter, it did seem to her that Steelcase’s recent effo rts to exclude PolyVision’s imported ceramic steel material had come very late in the proceeding and therefore Commerce would not be in a position to add ress the request before its final determination in the case .1 Secretary Pritzker noted, however, that PolyVision could work with Commerce and counsel for the domestic steel industry to seek an exclusion for the materi als in the event the materials remain in scope at the conclusion of the investigation and the International Trade Commission makes an affi rmative injury determination. Secretary Pritzkcr provided Mr. Engler with a contact in Enforcement & Compliance that he could give to officials at Steelcase for follow up.”

Here is the letter from Steelcase which is part of the US Department of Commerce file on the cold rolled suits against Japan and China:

May 6, 2016

The Honorable Penny Pritzker
Secretary of Commerce
Department of Commerce
Washington, DC

Dear Madame Secretary,

I enjoyed our meeting in your office last December, arranged by the Business Roundtable, where we discussed how pending rules might affect smaller businesses in general. I am writing to you today to share a serious problem we are facing at Steelcase. I’m hoping you can help.

We buy nearly all the steel that we use in our U.S. factories from domestic producers and we support the efforts by the Department of Commerce to protect our domestic steel producers from dumping by steel producers in certain foreign countries.

However, this tariff (Case No. A-588-873) has serious unintended consequences. We own a small subsidiary called PolyVision, which has 200 employees and operates a great factory in Oklahoma that makes ceramic steel used by other companies to make whiteboards for U.S. schools. PolyVision has the #1 market share and competes successfully every day against Asian imports. The factory purchases as a raw material a special kind of premium, Japanese-made, ultra-flat steel that U.S. steel companies are unable and unwilling to manufacture. We’ve asked in recent years and they said no, in writing.

The 71% tariff assigned to this steel will cost us $4-5 million this year, which wipes out the profit for that factory. Schools can’t afford to pay more for these whiteboards, so if we raise prices to our customers they will use lower quality substitutes that are likely not made in the U.S. If nothing changes, we would have to close our Oklahoma plant; and I don’t know how to explain that to PolyVision’s employees and the people of Oklahoma. A tariff on steel that we can’t buy in the U.S. violates every principle of fair trade, and it doesn’t protect nor create any jobs.

We are testing steel from other Asian and European suppliers, but even if we are successful, this solution will provide no benefit to the U.S. steel industry. And every month our liability under the tariff grows.

Our people have been told that we don’t have any right to share our story with the Department of Commerce through any kind of formal participation in the antidumping investigation because we are neither a steel producer nor importer -not a “party of interest.” I know PolyVision is just a small business, but I’m shocked we have no voice, no rights. We were told our only option is to ask the U.S. steel companies to voluntarily exclude the steel PolyVision uses from their petition, as they did in a similar 2002 petition. We are talking to their lawyers, and they concede we have a point. But, frankly, the people who work in our little factory in Oklahoma are not their concern, and it will take a unanimous agreement from the petitioning steel companies, as well as potentially having to gain support from at least 85% of the rest of the domestic industry, to voluntarily exclude our premium niche steel from the broad scope of their petition.

I believe that you care about small companies, and you would not want a new tariff to apply to products that cannot be produced in the U.S., especially if it actually causes the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. A small, simple change in the scope of the investigation and any resulting tariff could make a huge difference to those people in Oklahoma. By granting this exclusion, the Department of Commerce can assist in this effort to preserve American jobs.

I would appreciate your help and the opportunity to talk with you or your office to share more information. I’ve also attached some basic facts about the type of steel we buy and the domestic producers we’ve attempted to qualify.


James P. Keane
Chief Executive Officer

PolyVision’s limited exclusion request pertains to the porcelain enameling sheet steel outlined below:

Porcelain-enameling sheet whether or not coated prior to importation with the following characteristics:

Cold-rolled steel for porcelain enameling, the foregoing being continuous annealed cold-reduced steel with a nominal thickness of not more than 0.48 mm and widths from 1, 016 mm to 1, 524 mm, having a chemical composition, by weight, of not more than 0.004% carbon, nor more than 0.010% aluminum, 0.006% or more of nitrogen, 0. 012% or more of boron, and more than 0. 005% silicon, and 0. 010% or more of oxygen; having no intentional addition of and less than 0. 002% by weight of titanium, no intentional addition of and less than 0.002% by weight of vanadium, no intentional addition of and less than 0.002% by weight of niobium, and no intentional addition of and less than 0. 002% by weight of antimony; having a yield strength of from 179.3 MPa to 344.7 MPa, a tensile strength of from 303.7 MPa to 413.7 MPa, a percent of elongation of from 28% to 46% on a standard ASTM sample with a 5. 08 mm gauge length; for Fishscale resistance; hydrogen traps provided; with a product shape of flat after annealing, with flat defined as less than or equal to 1 I unit with no coil set.

PolyVision and Steelcase have unsuccessfully attempted to qualify the domestic producers outlined below to produce the specialty steel listed in our exclusion request:

• ArcelorMittal USA LLC
• Nucor Corporation
• United States Steel Corporation
• Steel Dynamics, Inc.
• AK Steel Holding Corp

Latest in Trade Cases