WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama's administration on Monday sided with American steel producers in a politically charged international trade dispute, ruling that imported steel reinforcing bar from Mexico and Turkey unfairly undercuts U.S. prices.
The preliminary decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce means companies in Mexico and Turkey will be subject to immediate duties. Within a week, the U.S. government will stop distribution at the nation's borders of the imported steel reinforcing bar, which is known as steel rebar and is used to reinforce concrete, until a cash bond or deposit is posted in the amount of the newly imposed duties. U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose retroactive duties for up to 90 days before the ruling due to the seriousness of the violations, Commerce said.
The amount of duties ranges from 10 percent to 66 percent for Mexican companies. For Turkish companies, the duties were roughly 2 percent.
Steel producers in Turkey and Mexico have denied they are violating trade laws. Companies in Mexico also have urged the Department of Commerce to avoid what they consider to be unnecessary trade disputes with Mexico, arguing American steel companies control the vast majority of U.S. market share.
Final rulings in the cases will be issued this summer.
The investigation by Commerce's International Trade Administration was launched last fall at the request of U.S. steel producers. It has drawn the close attention of steel executives and labor unions in a midterm election year in which America's declining manufacturing industry and shrinking middle class have become prominent political campaign issues.
Last month, United Steelworkers union president Leo Gerard cautioned that the steel industry could be on the verge of elimination if trade laws are not fully enforced.
Thirty-one senators, Republicans and Democrats, signed a letter to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker this month calling on full U.S. enforcement of trade laws to protect American steel jobs.