Oil Country Tubular Goods Orders Are Much More Likely As Domestic Industry Gains From The Department of Commerce's Final Determinations

by King & Spalding

[author: Brian E. McGill]

The high-profile unfair trade cases on oil country tubular goods (OCTG) are nearing completion. The antidumping investigations cover imports from India, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam, while the countervailing duty investigations cover India and Turkey. The Department of Commerce (Commerce) issued final determinations in these investigations on July 10. The International Trade Commission will vote on whether the domestic industry is materially injured by the unfair imports on August 14.

Commerce determined antidumping margins ranging from 2.05 to 9.91 percent for India, 9.89 to 15.75 percent for Korea, 9.88 percent for the Philippines, 2.69 percent for Saudi Arabia; zero to 2.52 percent for Taiwan; 118.32 percent for Thailand; zero to 35.86 percent for Turkey; 24.22 to 11.47 percent for Vietnam; and 6.73 percent for Ukraine. Commerce found countervailing duty rates ranging from 5.67 to 19.11 percent for Indian producers and 2.53 to 15.89 percent for Turkish producers. Despite opposition from the domestic industry, Commerce entered into the antidumping suspension agreement sought by Ukrainian producer Interpipe Group due to continuing unrest in that country.

The most significant gain for the domestic industry in the final Commerce determinations was the increase in antidumping margins applicable to imports from Korea, the source of the largest volume of OCTG imports into the U.S. market. On the other hand, antidumping margins declined for Indian producers to under 10 percent from preliminary margins of 55.37 percent. Moreover, producers in Taiwan and Turkey received final zero margins.

The OCTG cases have been viewed by many as highly politicized. For example, on June 17, the Commerce Assistant Secretary for Enforcement and Compliance met with Korean Deputy Minister for Economic Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Seoul, Korea. Although several topics were discussed, including overall United States-Korea bilateral trade relations, Commerce's antidumping investigation of OCTG imports from Korea was also on the agenda, with Minister Ahn urging Commerce to make an objective analysis notwithstanding the views expressed by many members of Congress. Likewise, Korea's Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy separately requested that Commerce make its final determination in a "fair and objective way." These comments from Korean officials were in reaction to a letter signed by over 150 members of Congress, including the Congressional Steel Caucus Chairman, Rep. Tim Murphy, and Vice-Chairman, Rep. Pete Visclosky, calling for action against unfair imports after Commerce's preliminary determination, which found no unfair pricing by the Korean producers.

Overall, the volume of OCTG imports did not decline following the preliminary Commerce determinations, led by shipments from Korea. But domestic OCTG prices did increase, leading to even greater price disparities between imported and domestic OCTG. Following Commerce's final determinations, there are strong indications that import prices are increasing and the gap in pricing is closing. U.S market prices reached their highest levels in a year and half in July. The benefits to the domestic industry are likely to be concentrated in the premium segment of the market until the high-inventories of commodity OCTG are absorbed. Whether the modest duties on imports from Korea significantly constrain the volume of imports from Korea remains to be seen. Because there is no internal market for OCTG in Korea and the United States is the primary export destination for Korean OCTG, in order to maintain production, the Korean producers likely will have to absorb some portion of the duties and slightly increased prices if orders are imposed.

The new cases are important to U.S. production. For example, U.S. Steel announced in early June that it would "indefinitely" idle its pipe plants in McKeesport, Pennsylvania and Bellville, Texas, due in part to unfairly traded tubular products. In addition, Alamo Tube Co. is planning to invest $62.5 million to build a 250,000-ton mill in Texas to produce welded OCTG. This mill is expected to employ more than 200 workers. The future of these facilities is likely to be affected by the outcome of the OCTG cases. The domestic industry had expected to obtain significant benefits from trade relief when it won unfair trade case against China several years ago. But the domestic industry has complained that unfair imports, particularly from Korea, have denied the domestic industry the benefits of the 2010 orders on imports from China. China was the largest import source of OCTG prior to those orders.

Canada recently initiated its own trade cases against OCTG imports from India, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam based on petitions filed by Evraz, Inc. and Tenaris S.A. The Canadian preliminary injury determination is due September 19, and the preliminary antidumping and countervailing decisions are due October 20. To the extent that the Canadian cases are successful, they will further restrict the options for OCTG exporters because the Canadian cases involve many of the same countries whose imports are being investigated by the United States.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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