U.S. Imposing New Duties on Chinese Steel Imports

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government is imposing new duties on imports of steel pipes from China, the latest sign of trade tensions between the two countries. 

The case is the largest steel trade dispute in U.S. history and will impact about $2.7 billion worth of Chinese imports. 

The U.S. International Trade Commission voted Wednesday to impose duties between 10.36 percent and 15.78 percent on the pipes, which are mostly used in the oil and gas industries. The duties are intended to offset government subsidies that the U.S. government says China is providing its steelmakers. 

The move is in response to a complaint filed in April by U.S. Steel and six other steel manufacturers, as well as the United Steelworkers' union. 

The U.S. industry alleged that Chinese exporters are selling the subsidized pipes at unfairly low prices in the U.S., a practice known as "dumping." 

The steelworkers union said earlier this month that the dumping has harmed the U.S. steel industry and caused more than 2,400 job losses since the beginning of this year. 

Wednesday's move by the ITC only addresses the U.S. industry's concern that Chinese imports benefit from government subsidies. The ITC will also vote in the spring on whether to impose additional tariffs of up to 99 percent to penalize the Chinese steelmakers for dumping. 

The Commerce Department said last month that imports of the Chinese steel pipes rose by nearly 360 percent from 2006 to 2008. 

China and the U.S. are engaged in several trade disputes over market access for goods ranging from poultry and tires to Hollywood movies. 

In another steel dispute, the Commerce Department said Tuesday that it may impose antidumping tariffs of 14 percent to 145 percent on $91 million of steel grating imported from China. It defines steel grating as two or more pieces of steel joined by any assembly process. The department will make a final decision in that case in April.