US: Automakers rejoice as steel duty dumped

By just-auto.com editorial team | 15 December 2006

There was car and component maker rejoicing in Washington last night after the US International Trade Commission (ITC) revoked anti-dumping and countervailing duty orders on corrosion resistant steel from Australia, Canada, France and Japan, though it left orders in place on imports from Germany and Korea.

Automakers and suppliers had lobbied hard for the revocation in recent weeks, arguing that measures once put in place to help a struggling steel industry were no longer necessary now that industry had restructured and was buoyant.

"We are pleased that the ITC revoked most of the duties," said Stephen Biegun, vice president, international governmental affairs, at Ford. "All of these duties are outdated and hurt American manufacturing competitiveness and US jobs while needlessly helping a steel industry that is now profitable and healthy."

"Today's decision is a major step forward in restoring needed competition to the US steel market," said Josephine Cooper, group vice president, Toyota Motor North America. "The ITC's decision supports both a strong steel industry and a strong auto industry, and we look forward to working with our colleagues in the steel industry to continue to strengthen manufacturing in the United States."

The duties on corrosion resistant steel have been in place since 1993 on imports from six countries. As a result of yesterday's vote, duties on imports from Australia, Canada, France and Japan are revoked, while duties on imports from Germany and Korea will be retained until the next review in 2011.

Six auto manufacturers - DaimlerChrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota - joined together for the first time as a group in a trade case to urge revocation of duties on corrosion-resistant steel because of their serious concern regarding access to, and availability of, competitively-priced steel.  During the hearing, the companies demonstrated that the US steel industry is now profitable, has healthy long-term prospects and no longer needs government protection.

Association of International Automobile Manufacturers President and CEO Mike Stanton said: "AIAM applauds today's decision by the International Trade Commission (ITC) to eliminate duties on corrosion resistant steel… This decision… will benefit automakers, including AIAM companies who collectively produce 3.4m vehicles annually in the United States and procure nearly all the steel used in these vehicles from US suppliers. American consumers will benefit as a result of more competitive steel prices. This is a victory for automakers and consumers alike."

AIAM is a trade association representing 14 international motor vehicle manufacturers who account for 40% of all passenger cars and light trucks sold annually in the United States.

Ann Wilson, vice president, government affairs for the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association, said: "Auto suppliers are pleased the International Trade Commission ruled today that the US steel industry no longer needs protection from four of the six countries in question that export corrosion-resistant steel into this country.

"We are obviously disappointed that the ITC upheld tariffs on steel from Germany and Korea.

"As we have said from the beginning, these tariffs have the effect of placing upward pressure on the cost of all steel purchased in the US. Most of the auto suppliers currently in bankruptcy proceedings have cited the high price of steel as a leading cause of their financial difficulty.

"We continue to believe strongly that the US steel market should be free from government duties which can only damage this country's manufacturing industries, which, collectively, employ more than six million workers."