USW’s Gerard Takes Case Vs. Foreign Oil Pipe Dumping To Feds; Commerce Dept. Probes Dumped Chinese Tires

WASHINGTON–Saying foreign dumping of subsidized oil tubular pipe could cost jobs not just of Steel Workers but of other U.S. workers, too, Steel Workers President Leo Gerard urged federal officials to ratify proposed tariffs against the pipe imports from Korea and eight other nations.

Otherwise, he told the U.S. International Trade Commission on July 15, U.S. workers will be left out of the boom in demand for the pipe, used for everything from gas lines to fence posts.  Indeed, they already are, he added.

Gerard discussed the imports at the commissioners’ hearing on a Commerce Department recommendation to impose the tariffs on the subsidized imported pipe, officially called oil country tubular goods (OCTG).  Commerce recommended the tariffs, drawing cheers from the Steel Workers and the Alliance for American Manufacturing, on July 11.

The ITC hearing occurred the day before Commerce, acting on another USW case against subsidized exports, said it is opening its own probe into dumped Chinese car and truck tires.  The trade commission will hold a hearing on the tire case on July 22.

Both cases are examples of how foreign nations use subsidies to invade the U.S. market with dumped manufactured goods, often selling them below-cost and costing U.S. plants business and U.S. workers jobs.  The Steel Workers have led both labor and business in researching and filing anti-dumping cases, with more than 40 dumping complaints.

As a matter of fact, USW is so active in filing anti-dumping cases that a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh has indicted the Chinese People’s Liberation Army for cybercrime: Hacking into USW’s computers – and those of five steel firms – to extract confidential case memos.

South Korea, the largest source of dumped OCTG, produces all of its pipe for export, undercutting U.S. manufacturers, Gerard told the trade commission.

The commission is probing dumping that began in 2011, Commerce Department data says.  Besides Korea, Commerce says India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the Ukraine, and Vietnam dump OCTG pipe.  A commission decision, which Democratic President Barack Obama could then accept or reject, is due in September.

“Between the first quarter of 2013 and first quarter of 2014 hours worked increased by 1.4% while consumption increased by 13.6%,” Gerard testified.  “Why?  Because despite massive investments in new capacity several years ago, the U.S. industry is losing market share to dumped imports,” Gerard told the commissioners.

“The USW is hoping to see job growth in OCTG and in steel mills making products that become OCTG.  Before these new imports arrived, steel and OCTG for the domestic energy boom was probably the brightest thing I have seen in this industry during a career that has seen little but retrenchment and job losses.

“Don’t let unfairly traded imports rob us of this opportunity,” he concluded.

In the tire case, Commerce said on July 16 that it’s probing dumping after receiving USW findings. The trade commission’s July 22 hearing will deal with that dumping.

A Steel Workers fact sheet to the commission shows that after three years of tariffs against dumped Chinese tires ended in September 2012, China exported 50.8 million tires to the U.S. last year, 19 million more than in 2012.  In the first quarter of 2014, Chinese tire imports rose by 24.6 percent compared to January-March 2013.

With 41 different government subsidies which account for one-quarter of Chinese tire producers’ revenue, Chinese retail tire prices undercut U.S. retail tire prices by 12 percent to 40 percent, depending on the size and type of tire, USW’s fact sheet adds.

“From 2011 to 2013, China more than doubled its share of the U.S. (tire) market, from 9 percent to 18 percent,” USW told the Commerce Department and will tell the ITC.  “The gain in China’s market share was at the direct expense of U.S. workers and domestic producers, whose market share fell from 47 percent to 40 percent over the period.”

Obama’s prior tariffs on dumped Chinese tires let the U.S. tiremakers – many of whose plants are staffed by USW members, former Rubber Workers – recover somewhat.  But now they’re hurting from the new surge in dumped Chinese tires, the union adds.

That’s happening in the OCTG case, too, Gerard testified.  He said USW has already lost at least 345 jobs as OCTG makers had to shut plants due to the subsidized competition.  They include USW-represented OCTG plants run by U.S. Steel in McKeesport, Pa., and Belleville, Texas, and Energex in Warren, Ohio, and Welland, Ont.  And TMK cut workers’ hours in the USW-represented plant in Newport, Kent.  Non-union OCTG plants also had to close due to the unfair competition, Gerard testified.

And it’s not just OCTG Steel Workers who lose jobs due to the unfair trade, Gerard told the commissioners.  Basic steel workers, who turn out the steel the other workers then convert into the pipes, also will lose work due to the subsidized imports.

“In 2009, when US Steel shut down their Lone Star OCTG plant” – before the recent boom in demand – “they also shut down Granite City Works because that’s where they make the steel Lone Star makes into OCTG.  So we could lose thousands of steel jobs as well,” he explained.  The Granite City plant is just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

OCTG dumping “caused serious harm to our domestic steel industry,” he said before. “Plants are being idled, workers are losing jobs and communities are suffering…It’s time for all of our leaders in Washington to stand with us and fight hard for fair – not just free – trade.”

-PAI