The International Trade Commission began the investigation week in Washington, D.C.
The Rebar Trade Action Coalition, an organization formed by seven U.S. mills producing hot-rolled bars used for reinforcing concrete, requested the U.S. Department of Commerce and the ITC to impose antidumping duties upon 12 allegedly unfair traders.
The RTAC accuses the Latvian steel company Liepajas Metalurgs, along with the other producers, at prices below the market level. A considerable increase in low-priced imports has blocked the growth of the domestic rebar industry, leading to the decline of prices and profits and hindering the increase of domestic sales volumes, according to the petition filed by RTAC.
The other producers are Austria, Russia, Belarus, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Korea, Poland, Moldova, Ukraine, and Venezuela.
Latvia, along with Poland, China and Korea, massively increased imports of rebar production to get ahead of the expected filing of the antidumping case, according to the RTAC report. Imports from Latvia increased from 76,484 tons in September - December of 1999 to 108,947 tons in January - April of 2000 resulting in a 42.4 percent rise, RTAC claimed.
Kirov Lipman, the president of Liepajas Metalurgs admitted that the company's imports to the United States were increasing, but categorically denied any intentions to make use of the time before the anti-dumping action had started.
"We think that there's no sufficient ground for anti-dumping duties," Lipman said in an interview with The Baltic Times. "We didn't increase the imports on purpose, and we didn't bring big losses to the U.S. companies."
Lipman stressed that the U.S. authorities might have calculated larger total import amounts from Latvia by including the imports from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet Union republics.
The price of Liepajas Metalurgs production is origin high, due to expensive technologies, and the company cannot afford to sell cheap, Lipman said. "We can prove that we didn't lower the price of our imports to the United States," he said.
Liepajas Metalurgs production is sold with the help of several European trading companies, and the prices are set according to tendencies in the international market.
The U.S. companies can satisfy only 60 percent of domestic market needs, and the other 40 percent has to be supplied by outside producers, Lipman stressed.
Liepajas Metalurgs, which is represented at the hearings by the law offices of Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, intends to appeal the anti-dumping measures if imposed by the U.S. authorities, Lipman said. The company has strong support from the Latvian government, the Latvian news agency LETA reported.
Liepajas Metalurgs, which started importing to the United States in 1997, has suffered significant losses since the anti-dumping case was filed on June 28, Lipman noted. Imports to America have declined by 50 percent, and no purchase contracts have been signed with American clients.
Some U.S. mills, on the other hand, have lowered prices, while others have reduced production. One member of the industry was shut down completely in 1999, according to RTAC.
The ITC will decide by Aug.14 whether to continue the investigation in the dumping case.