In recent years, the United States has taken a myriad of protective steps towards preventing the import of steel products. The World Trade Organization data shows that the U.S. issued a total of 43 decisions to impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties from the beginning of 2013 until the end of 2015. In the first half of 2016, the U.S. conducted 41 anti-dumping and 20 countervailing duty cases.
Although we previously took every opportunity on various platforms to explain the severity of the situation for Turkey, the need to raise the issue once again has emerged. As is known, trade cases were only launched against our standard pipes and light–walled rectangular pipe and tube until 2013, while a total of 11 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations have been initiated against our OCTG [oil country tubular goods], rebar, welded line pipe, steel nails, heavy walled rectangular welded pipes and tubes, hot-rolled steel flat products, and cut-to-length plate products since 2013.
It is totally understandable that the U.S. lodges trade cases to protect its market and industry against dumped and subsidized imports. However, the Turkish steel industry is composed of private companies that are in no way subsidized by the government. Claims that our industry engages in dumped sales, or, in other words, sales at a loss although it uses imported input in production and exports on low profit margins are never compatible with the commercial facts.
In an OCTG-related countervailing duty investigation against Turkey in 2013, the U.S. made a wrong decision by claiming that a publicly-held private steel company from Turkey was a “public body”. However, Canada launched a trade case against the same product later on and decided that there was no evidence proving the said company had any express public connection.
The U.S. not only imposes duties without a good cause but also makes amendments in its trade case legislation in favor of domestic producers. To this end, the US trade case authorities decided on unsatisfactory grounds that Turkish steel companies failed to cooperate and started to arbitrarily charge high margins on our companies in the light of “facts available”. The final decisions of almost all trade cases are taken to the relevant U.S. court (the Court of International Trade) on grounds of unlawfulness, and our companies are obliged to seek their rights before this court.
Another example for unfair practices by the U.S. is the rebar case lodged in September. As a result of the trade case in 2013, Turkish steel companies were charged a zero dumping margin and a very small subsidy margin. Despite this, the very same authorities failed to resist the pressure from domestic producers and launched a new case concerning the same product.
During the administrative review phases of trade cases against the Turkish steel industry, the margins charged against our companies in the final decision are set to zero. The fact that the margins charged against our industry without a good cause are ultimately set to zero is the most express proof that the previously mentioned trade cases are lodged under the political pressure exerted by domestic producers and such cases aim to provide domestic producers with an advantage, although short-term, in import and competition.
The Turkish steel industry is justified as a result of trade cases, yet the very long trade case process hampers the trade relations between the two countries. Employing the trade remedy system in a way to prevent fair competition means undermining the WTO rules. We think this attitude by the U.S. sets a bad example for other countries and jeopardizes global free trade. We have our concerns that such attitude by the U.S. will become harsher in upcoming years in line with the press stories that the domestic steel industry will be provided with advantages in a myriad of areas by the government.
Namik Ekinci is chairman of the Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association.