International Steel Mills

USS and Nippon clarify position on US trade case participation

Written by Laura Miller

U.S. Steel and Nippon Steel explained their position on USS’ participation in US trade cases should their proposed nearly $15-billion merger deal go through. The companies hope to close the deal by the end of the year.

Statements issued by both steelmakers on Thursday, June 27, appear to be in response to a recent letter penned by three US senators urging executive action to block the acquisition.

Nippon response

Tokyo-based Nippon, Japan’s largest steelmaker, said it “will not interfere with U.S. Steel’s decisions on trade matters” or its decision to pursue trade actions like antidumping and countervailing duty cases and safeguard measures. It noted that this includes unfair trade actions against countries in which Nippon operates.

“Nippon Steel will also encourage U.S. Steel to utilize US trade remedy law to seek relief when it is being injured by unfairly traded imports to achieve our common goal,” Nippon added.

That common goal is “to protect and grow U.S. Steel in the United States,” Nippon said in a statement on Thursday.

Nippon stated that its basic policy on trade issues is: 1) Exporting steel to countries where local steelmakers have a hard time supplying the necessary quantities or quality of products needed and 2) respecting each country’s specific trade remedy laws and their “right to enforce trade laws to achieve fair trade.”

USS response

U.S. Steel said it’s not true that Nippon Steel and the pending deal are influencing the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker’s recent actions, or lack thereof, in trade cases.

USS chose not to join Cleveland-Cliffs and the USW as a petitioner in the 2023 tin mill products trade case. When the case ended without any trade relief, Cliffs’ President, Chairman, and CEO Lourenco Goncalves blamed U.S. Steel’s lack of participation for the unfavorable decision.

Although it was not a petitioner, the company “fully cooperated” in the case by responding to all the International Trade Commission’s (ITC’s) questions and questionnaires, a spokesperson said in a statement sent to SMU.

The spokesperson noted that U.S. Steel’s decision not to join the case as a petitioner in January 2023 came “almost a year before” the December 2023 announcement of its acquisition agreement with Nippon.

According to a USS SEC filing earlier this year, formal discussions of selling the company did not begin until March 2023.

Why the lack of participation?

It’s still unclear why U.S. Steel chose not to participate in the case despite increasing levels of cheap imports, having to close its own tin mill facilities, and actively participating in a recent sunset review of duties on tin mill products.

In September 2022, the company temporarily idled the No. 5 tin line at its Gary Works in Indiana, citing increasing imports and tough market conditions. Less than two months later, it announced the indefinite idling of the line. A spokeswoman cited “market conditions” as the reason for the idling, while a USW rep said his understanding was the closure was “mainly due to an increase in imports.”

Also, in early 2022, USS informed stakeholders of its intentions to idle the USS-UPI mill in Pittsburg, Calif. That idling was complete by the end of 2023.

In 2019, when USS announced the idling of its East Chicago Tin facility, it said, “A significant contributor to this decision is our low tin mill capacity utilization driven by the continued high levels of low-priced imports that have captured roughly half of the US tin mill products market.”

“U.S. Steel has been a leading petitioner for decades” in US trade cases, the USS spokesperson commented on June 27.

In fact, the steelmaker was one of the two domestic producer parties in the recent sunset review of tin mill products from Japan. Those duties were upheld and will remain on the books for at least another five years.

On Friday, SMU again asked U.S. Steel why it chose not to be a petitioner in the 2023 case. While the company responded with a statement, it did not address the question.

The USW said in April that Nippon’s prioritization of its Japanese operations over those of American workers was one of many reasons why the company should not be allowed to acquire USS.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to add U.S. Steel’s response and note its participation in the Japanese tin mill products sunset review.

Laura Miller

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