International Steel Mills

USW claims Nippon prioritizing Japanese ops in US tin mill trade case

Written by Laura Miller

The United Steelworkers (USW) union alleged that Nippon Steel was prioritizing its Japanese operations at the expense of American workers even as the steelmaker forges ahead with its proposed plan to purchase U.S. Steel.

The reason for the ruckus: USW said Nippon was seeking to lift tariffs on tin mill products in an April 10 letter to union members,

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) is currently conducting a five-year sunset review of the antidumping duties on tin- and chromium-coated sheet products from Japan, which have been in place since 2000.

“Nippon Steel was recently among the respondents seeking to lift tariffs on Japanese tin mill products,” said the letter, which was signed by USW International President David McCall and USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap. And that happened “even while hundreds of our union brothers and sisters lost their jobs in recent years as USS idled tin mill production at UPI and Gary Works.”

The union also claimed that workers at Cleveland-Cliffs’ tin mill in Weirton, W.Va., mill were “victims of dumping and illegal subsidies.”

Nippon Steel “cynically argues that these lost jobs are, in fact, a reason why the ITC should lift tariffs on Japanese goods. Obviously, this is complete nonsense, and we must continue to protect what’s left of our domestic tin mill industry,” McCall and Millsap said.

“For this and many other reasons … Nippon must not be allowed to acquire USS facilities,” the union leaders added.

Nippon did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. U.S. Steel declined to comment.

Background on tin mill idlings

Recall that in 2022, U.S. Steel cited increased imports and weaker demand as reasons to temporarily idling the No. 5 tin line at its Gary Works in northwest Indiana in 2022. The steelmaker then indefinitely idled the line later that year. (Note that U.S. Steel still produces tin mill products at its Midwest plant, a steel finishing facility in Portage, Ind., considered to be part of Gary Works.)

Late in 2023, USS idled its USS-UPI subsidiary in Pittsburg, Calif., which made tin mill products in addition to coated sheet.

Earlier this year, Cleveland-Cliffs announced it would indefinitely idle tinplate production at its mill in Weirton, W.Va. The steelmaker said the idling was a direct result of the ITC’s February decision not to impose duties on tin mill imports from Canada, China, Germany, and South Korea.

Cliffs’ CEO Lourenco Goncalves blamed the ITC’s unfavorable decision on U.S. Steel’s lack of participation in the case.

SMU asked U.S. Steel why it didn’t participate in the case given that it had blamed imports for the idling of some of its tin mills.

A USS spokesperson responded that “U.S. Steel has ample tin mill capacity to supply domestic demand. … We are open for business and happy to supply customers tin mill products that are mined, melted and made in the USA.” The spokesperson also noted that Gary’s idling was temporary.

According to U.S. Steel SEC filings, the company shipped more than 435,000 short tons of tin products in the US in 2023.

Sunset review update

The Department of Commerce expedited its sunset review of the AD duties on Japanese tin products. In October, it determined that Japanese companies would likely continue dumping the products into the US at margins as high as 95.29% if the duties were allowed to expire.

Note that both Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel are interested domestic producer parties participating in the sunset review. Nippon Steel and JFE Steel are participating Japanese parties.

The ITC held a hearing on April 9 as part of its sunset review. It is scheduled to vote on the case on May 10 and to make its final determination by May 28.

Cliffs Weirton mill update

The idling of Cleveland-Cliffs’ Weirton tin mill is scheduled for April 20.

“953 people are going to be laid off very shortly on the 20th of this month. 400 will be laid off, and then (more) will be laid off every week after that until the end of the year,” said Mark Glyptis, president of USW Local 2911, in a local media report on April 6.

McCall was in Weirton last week to talk to workers affected by the mill’s idling. “I’m confident that we’re going to do everything we can to restart production at this plant,” he said, according to a local report from April 2.

Glyptis has shown optimism regarding the mill’s restart. “An idling, you take down your equipment in a fashion where you can start it back up, and that’s what’s happening,” Glyptis noted in the April 2 report.

Laura Miller

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