NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Guess Who's Importing Steel

March 22, 1999

American steel makers decry steel imports. But by some estimates, American steel firms buy about 25 percent of the steel coming into the U.S. How can this be?

  • Analysts say that during the 1980s, U.S. steel companies -- then cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs -- closed down some of the basic steel-making furnaces at the front of their production lines which produced low-profit steel slabs, and retained their rolling mills which made more profitable finished products.
  • Producers began to rely on slab steel, forcing a jump in slab imports from 155,343 tons in 1980 to 6.8 million tons last year.
  • Some trade analysts question whether U.S. companies are buying slab steel at prices which amount to "dumping" -- either below the selling price in the home country or below the cost of production, the very practice domestic companies protest.
  • Generally, U.S. steel makers reply that they won't import steel if they think it has been priced in the U.S. at less than fair value.

There are also reports that some domestic companies import not just slab steel, but finished steel as well -- in an effort to fill their orders from customers. Some industry executives say they are not sure whether these imports are being purchased at prices which constitute dumping.

All seven of the biggest U.S. steel makers imported either slab or finished steel in 1998, according to shipping records or company officials. Despite this, the U.S. steel industry began preparing for its trade battles -- alleging dumping -- more than two years ago.

Source: Chris Adams, "Steel Makers Complain About Foreign Steel; They Also Import It," Wall Street Journal, March 22, 1999.


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