S Korea appeals to WTO over US duties on steel pipe imports

S Korea appeals to WTO over US duties on steel pipe imports
A worker stacks steel pipes in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.

SEOUL - The South Korean government said on Monday it has lodged an appeal with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against a US move to slap anti-dumping duties on imports of steel pipes from the Asian nation.

South Korea's trade ministry said in a statement that the high US tariffs on Korean steel pipes - over US$100 million (S$132 million) annually - put them at a price disadvantage compared with imports from India and other countries.

A ministry official said the appeal has sought a withdrawal of the duties.

The US International Trade Commission ruled in August that "oil country tubular goods" (OCTG) imports from South Korea, India, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam would be subject to duties.

Steel pipes are high-margin products used in the energy sector and have been a bright spot in the sluggish steel industry, benefiting from a boom in the US shale oil and gas industry.

"We believe that the US commerce department potentially violated WTO rules when it investigated the anti-dumping case, including calculating dumping margins," the South Korean trade ministry statement said.

"If our government wins the case, the US has the obligation to correct its action to levy anti-dumping duties."

US steel companies had lodged a complaint against cheap imports in 2013, saying OCTG imports sold cheaply using government subsidies had harmed their business, dragged prices down and triggered job cuts.

The US commerce department, which determines whether dumping exists, said in July that imports from South Korea's Hyundai Hysco would be subject to duties of 15.75 per cent, those from Nexteel to 9.89 per cent, and all other South Korean producers including Seah Steel Corp and Husteel will have a duty of 12.82 per cent.

South Korea's OCTG exports to the United States were worth US$818 million in 2013, more than the combined imports of the other countries involved in the case.

South Korea was hit with the second-highest duties after Vietnam, which attracted duties in the range of 24.22 per cent-111.47 per cent. India steel pipe imports faced tariffs of 2.05 per cent to 9.91 per cent.

Despite the appeal to the WTO, the United States and South Korea can still engage in negotiations to settle the dispute. If that does not work, South Korea can ask for the establishment of a WTO panel to review the matter.

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