Articles in Category: Global Trade

President Donald Trump (R-N.Y.) is set to sign an executive order this afternoon ordering enforcement and review of the H-1B visa program, popular in the technology industry, on a visit to the headquarters of Snap-On Inc., a tool manufacturer in Kenosha, Wis., according to senior administration officials.

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He will also use what the White House called the “Buy American and Hire American” order to seek changes in government procurement that would boost purchases of American products in federal contracts, with one aim being to help U.S. steelmakers.

The moves show Trump once again using his power to issue executive orders to try to fulfill promises he made last year in his election campaign, in this case to reform U.S. immigration policies and encourage purchases of American products.

“Strong Buy America domestic procurement preferences for federally funded infrastructure projects are vital to the health of the domestic steel industry, and have helped create manufacturing jobs and build American infrastructure,” said Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute, the largest trade group for North American steel manufacturers. “The foundation of a strong Buy America program is the longstanding requirement that all iron and steel-making processes occur in the U.S. for a product to be Buy America compliant — from the actual steel production to the finishing processes. This ‘melted and poured’ standard has been successfully applied since 1983 and must continue to be the standard used in federal Buy America rules for steel procurement. We applaud President Trump for affirming his commitment to full and effective enforcement of our Buy America laws, and to addressing the issue of unfairly dumped and subsidized steel, in signing this Executive Order today.”

As requested by Japan, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has set up a dispute settlement panel to decide the row over India’s imposition of a safeguard duty on imports of iron and steel products.

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MetalMiner has reported on this case in the past. Japan’s request was made after New Delhi imposed safeguard duties on several iron and steel products, which India claimed violated global trade rules.

India’s finance ministry imposed definitive safeguard duties on imports of hot-rolled flat products of non-alloy steel in coils to counter a surge in imports from several countries, including Japan. India’s stand has been that such cheap imports “caused injury to domestic steel industries.”

As both the nations failed to arrive at a solution, Japan petitioned the WTO for the formation of a dispute resolution panel.

Soon after the WTO announcement, though, India objected to Japan’s WTO request for a “prompt’’ resolution of its dispute against India’s duties on steel imports.

India’s contention is that there’s “no rationale” for treating the dispute any more urgently than other WTO disputes it’s involved in and the same standard should be applied to all disputes.

In December, Japan dragged India to the WTO against measures taken on imports of iron and steel products. Incidentally, Japan is the second-largest steel producer in the world.

The dispute assumes some amount of significance as both India and Japan signed a comprehensive free trade agreement, meant to avoid this type of arbitration, in 2011.

This was Japan’s second attempt to ask the WTO to set up a panel after the first was blocked by India in March. India expressed disappointment over Japan’s insistence on the WTO panel despite its “sincere efforts” to resolve the matter in a bilateral manner.

It normally takes about 20 months to settle a dispute at the WTO, but according to WTO rules, in cases of urgency, the parties to the dispute, panels and the Appellate Body make every effort to accelerate the proceedings.

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The Japanese government reportedly estimated that the tariffs could cost Japanese steel companies about $220 million through March 2018.

The safeguard duties imposed by India also gave rise to complaints from other WTO members.

One of the toughest calls over the last six months has been guessing which of President Donald Trump’s many campaign pledges would be implemented once his administration came into power, and more to the point if they would live up to the rhetoric on the campaign trail.

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Apart from diehard supporters, most commentators expected pledges to be watered-down when Trump got into power and have since been surprised at the vigor with which he has continued to pursue many of those objectives. Now, vigor is one thing, impact is another. His moves on healthcare were largely blocked by Congress but some other policies may gain greater support and Adam Posen, President of the Peterson Institute for International Economics is quoted in the Telegraph as saying, in the Institute’s estimation, the market is seriously underestimating the consequences of some of his more likely polices. In particular he is concerned about Trump’s fiscal stimulus coinciding with a tightening by the Federal Reserve causing a severe spike in the U.S. dollar.

Whether Pozen is right or wrong only time will tell, but for any business with involvement in imports or exports somewhere in their supply chain a significant strengthening of the U.S. dollar could have a significant impact.

“The Fed is going to be far more aggressive than people think. Our view is that there will be three to four more rate rises this year,” Pozen is quoted as saying.

The institute’s primary concern is about the consequences for emerging market debt of Fed tightening. Pozen said the resulting drain on dollar liquidity from the international financial system would have profound consequences after the surge in dollar-denominated debt over the last decade. Our concern here is more about the other implication of rising U.S. Federal Reserve rates and the impact they would have on the exchange rate.

The promise of rising rates has caused the dollar to spike in the past as markets have anticipated rate rises, but Pozen believes investors have become inured to Fed guidance and are discounting the probability of rate rises this year. Yet the economy continues to grow steadily. Employment is high — the U.S. economy is near full employment, and inflation is picking up. If President Trump comes through on his promises rates rises are inevitable, which brings onto the second issue, radical tax cuts combined with fiscal stimulus would cause U.S. federal borrowing to rise.

Quoting from the article, Posen believes there is enough Republican support for corporate tax rate to fall from 35% to 25%, along with income tax cuts for the wealthy and the middle class, and more generous tax deductions for business. Such a policy at this late stage of the business cycle will cause the economy to overheat, forcing the Fed to jam on the monetary brakes, which would send the dollar through roof. The institute suggests this could result in a 15% spike in the dollar hitting exports and undermining domestic manufacturers at the mercy of import substitution.

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There is the possibility that Pozen has this all wrong. It’s not a forgone conclusion that President Trump will achieve his tax cuts, although an increasingly hawkish Fed is already in evidence. But at the very least, the situation deserves monitoring with the awareness that such a combination could have a very detrimental impact on the dollar and potentially for firms trading internationally. Posen is a former rate-setter on Britain’s Monetary Policy Committee, and is known for his work with former Fed chief Ben Bernanke on Japan’s Lost Decade and inflation targeting, he has sufficient experience and credentials to make his warnings worth listening to.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recently announced the final results of an annual administrative review of the anti-dumping duty order on imports of oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from the Republic of Korea (South Korea). Commerce found that Korean steel producers have been unfairly dumping OCTG in the U.S. market, hurting American workers and businesses.

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Commerce announced, in a press release, that it is exercising its authority under Congress for the first time to address market distortions in the production of foreign merchandise, and to calculate dumping margins that “more accurately account for the unfair pricing practices of foreign exporters. Section 504 of the Trade Preferences Extension of 2015 is a vital instrument in helping to identify distortions in the market that can enable and facilitate dumping practices.”

During the period covered by the administrative review (July 2014 to August 2015), OCTG imports from South Korea were valued at an estimated $1.1 billion, accounting for nearly 25% of all U.S. imports of OCTG. The dumping margins, or the rate at which the imported materials were under sold below fair value in the U.S., were found to range from 2.76% to 24.9%.

A 24.92%t tariff rate was imposed on OCTG from Nexteel, 2.76% on SeAh Steel and 13.84% on Hyundai Steel and other South Korean steelmakers.

The review also concluded that prices of the hot-rolled coil used to produce OCTG, as well as Korean electricity prices, were distorted. Anti-dumping tariffs on Nexteel and Hyundai each increased 16.88% and 7.92%, respectively, during this review. The initial preliminary rulings and the lower percentages were announced last October.

Seah Steel, however, saw a 1.04% reduction, making it the only South Korean steelmaker that was levied a lower tariff rate.

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“There is fair and unfair trade, and the distinction is not very hard to make,” Secretary Ross said in the release. “We will not stand for the distortions in foreign markets being used against U.S. businesses. The Trump Administration will continue to employ all of the tools provided under the law to take swift action against harmful trade practices from foreign nations attempting to take advantage of our markets, workers, and businesses.”

China will offer the Trump administration better market access for financial sector investments and U.S. beef exports to help avert a trade war, the Financial Times reported on Sunday, citing officials familiar with the matter.

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China is prepared to raise the investment ceiling in the Bilateral Investment treaty and is also willing to end the ban on U.S. beef imports, the newspaper also reported.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Friday that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have agreed to a new 100-day plan for trade talks on Friday.

Steel Shipments Down in February, But Up Year-Over-Year

The American Iron and Steel Institute recently said that for the month of February 2017, U.S. steel mills shipped 7,232,341 net tons, a 6.2% decrease from the 7,708,416 nt shipped in the previous month, and a 2.4% increase from the 7,059,442 nt shipped in February 2016. Shipments year-to-date in 2017 are 14,940,757 nt, a 6% increase vs. 2016 shipments of 14,090,749 nt for two months.

A comparison of February shipments to the previous month of January shows the following changes:  hot rolled sheets, down 3%, hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip, down 6% and cold-rolled sheets, down 8%.

The signals the U.S. is sending in the steel sector really worry Germany, so said Brigitte Zypries, German Economy Minister, according to Reuters in a recent article.

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This isn’t the first time the European Union has had a trade spat with the U.S. over steel but it is unusual for one party or the other to take the case to the World Trade Organization, claiming “accounting tricks” and “protectionism” designed to give domestic producers an “unfair competitive advantage.”

The E.U.’s position is this issue should have been addressed through bilateral negotiations giving them the opportunity to show Germany, French and Austrian steel producers are not dumping steel and are not being subsidized, but President Trump signed executive orders last Friday aimed at identifying abuses causing the huge U.S. trade deficit, and Germany is deemed one of the worst culprits.

Port Talbot steel plant

British Steel and its Port Talbot plant could be the next company in line for carbon and alloy steel plate tariffs from the U.S. Source: Adobe Stock/Petert2

However, by issuing a final finding that European and Asian producers dumped certain carbon and alloy steel cut-to-length plate in the U.S. market, the Department of Commerce says it is allowed to impose duties ranging from 3.62 to 148%, but the E.U. claims the decision has been determined on the basis of dodgy accounting estimates and the correct place to discuss them is at the negotiating table or via the WTO, not by applying duties which will then take months to address and impact trade for a year or more, essentially shutting European mills out of the U.S. market. Read more

Dean A. Pinkert is a partner in Hughes Hubbard’s International Trade practice. He is a former Commissioner of the U.S. International Trade Commission. Pinkert was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in 2007, and was designated Vice Chairman by President Obama in 2014.

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As a commissioner, Pinkert participated in numerous anti-dumping, countervailing duty, and safeguard investigations, including the special safeguard investigation of passenger tires that resulted in import relief for the domestic tire industry and was upheld by the World Trade Organization. He participated in an unprecedented number of final determinations in Section 337 investigations during his tenure, notably dissenting in an electronic devices case that went to President for policy review. President Obama, relying on many of the factors cited in the dissent, overruled the commission for the first time since 1987.

Dean Pinkert

Former ITC Vice Chair A. Dean Pinkert. Source: Hughes Hubbard.

Pinkert spoke with MetalMiner Editor Jeff Yoders by phone about several issues facing metals producers and manufacturers, including global steel and aluminum overcapacity and how the new Trump administration can approach trade and overcapacity issues. This is part two of our discussion, which focuses on cases that rise to the WTO. See part one here if you missed it.

Jeff Yoders: Is there a risk to elevating any such case to the WTO of essentially spending the money and hiring the lawyers, only to lose the case?

Dean Pinkert: First, there are two types of cases. When there’s a decision by the U.S. Trade Representative‘s office to file a case with the WTO, we’ll call those offensive cases. They are filing a complaint with the WTO saying that another country is violating its trade commitments. By the way, I think the Obama administration was very aggressive at developing and filing cases of that kind.

There is  another type, and these are what I was referring to earlier, where the U.S. has an investigation of something, concludes that a trade remedy is appropriate, imposes that trade remedy and then gets sued and it goes to the WTO. In 2002, when the steel safeguard relief was put into place, the U.S. was taken to the WTO by our trading partners and, ultimately, the WTO ruled against the safeguard. It was then withdrawn, although the Bush administration said the reason it was withdrawn was because it achieved its aim of giving the domestic industry some breathing space so that they could regain profitability, not because of the loss.

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I was talking more about that more defensive posture in the WTO when I was talking about safeguards.

JY: There’s a lot of talk about a border-adjustment tax right now. Many policy papers are calling the scheme very similar to a value-added tax but only on companies. Is there a chance that such an idea might run afoul of WTO rules?

DP: We don’t now exactly what it would look like or what the final measure, if there is one, would be. We don’t know how the WTO would react to it, either, but it’s possible that the WTO would consider it an export subsidy and, if it did, then that would have some serious consequences because there is a list of various kinds of subsidies, particularly export subsidies, in the WTO agreement. If it was found to be an export subsidy there would be considerable consequences for the U.S.

But, it’s important to note that we don’t even know what the border adjustment tax will look like yet. We would have to see. Read more

Last week, the Trump trade agenda finally took off as the Commerce Department, now officially led by billionaire Wilbur Ross, finalized new carbon and alloy steel plate anti-dumping duties and President Donald Trump had some choice words as he signed two new executive orders he says will level the international trade playing field for U.S. manufacturers.

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“There’s never been a systematic examination, country by country and major product by major product, of why do we have the deficit,” Ross said during an interview on “Sunday Morning Futures” on Fox News with Sandra Smith, who was sitting in for host Maria Bartiromo.

“There’s a lot that’s due to cheating, there’s a lot due to dumping, there’s a lot that’s due to subsidies that are illegal, lot to do with a lot of things that are not inherent in free trade,” he continued.

Ross cited entities, many of which were created purely to facilitate exports, that go out of business before duties are collected as one situation that leads to lax enforcement of existing anti-dumping and countervailing duties orders, what the other executive order instructed commerce to accomplish.

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The new executive orders come just as President Trump will meet this week with Chinese President Xi Jinging at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. It’ll be Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Xi, after a campaign that was highly critical of U.S. trade with China.

Carbon and Alloy Steel Plate Duties

Commerce had a busy week, announcing affirmative final determinations that steel producers in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea (South Korea), and Taiwan are dumping imports of carbon and alloy steel plate in the U.S.

The U.S. is preparing a review of China’s bid for market-economy status in the World Trade Organization, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Finishing a busy day in trade, Trump also signed two executive orders designed to enhance enforcement of current trade pacts and promised to end “the theft of American prosperity.”

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The Trump administration appears ready to formalize China’s unfavorable status in trade cases, which means the country’s goods would be eligible for higher U.S. tariffs, the paper said, citing documents from the Commerce Department website. The review is expected to be announced as early as this week, it said.

The first of the two trade orders Trump signed today calls for completion of a large-scale report to identify “every form of trade abuse and every non-reciprocal practice that now contributes to the U.S. trade deficit,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told the Washington Post.

Read more

Here at MetalMiner, we occasionally write about our favorite TV shows, especially when they shed light on the metals and other commodity markets that we cover in depth today.

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Never could there be a better examination of how commodities and commerce changed the New World, with a hand from new technology, than the Starz drama, “Black Sails,” which ends its fourth season and its series run Sunday night.

Black Sails courtesy of Starz network

What’s a pirate show without Blackbeard? Image courtesy of Starz.

What does a dark and very adult prequel to Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” have to do with metals, you might ask? Just that the prices of the metals we track today are the same type of information that buccaneers based in the Caribbean in the 18th Century tracked for rum, tea and other shipments marked for plunder in the new world.

Commerce Creates Disruption

The series stars Toby Stephens as Captain Flint, a former British naval officer turned pirate who leads a crew based out of New Providence Island in the Bahamas. His co-star, Luke Arnold, plays young Quartermaster Long John Silver whose adventures begin 20 years before the events of “Treasure Island” and centuries before his name would ever grace a chain of fast food restaurants known for battered fish. Read more