WASHINGTON – The Justice Department is backing a bid by U.S. steelmakers, including Bethlehem Steel Corp., to overturn a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that certain steel imports are not harming domestic manufacturers.
The ITC ruled in November that the import of cold-rolled steel from six countries does not threaten U.S. manufacturers. The commission is an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries.
This week, the Justice Department filed papers to intervene in the cold- rolled steel case, which is before the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York. No hearing date has been set.
“It sounds like it was a good shot in the arm for us if they are recognizing there was injury to the industry,” said Nancy Gravatt, spokeswoman for the Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute.
Officials at Bethlehem Steel declined on Friday to comment on the Justice Department action, instead referring calls to Gravatt’s organization.
After November’s ruling, steel-state lawmakers lobbied the Clinton administration to more aggressively enforce trade laws.
“The unfair trading practices of foreign steel manufacturers is well documented,” said Rep. Ben Cardin, D-Baltimore, in a prepared statement Friday praising the Justice Department move.
Cold-rolled steel imports are of acute interest to Bethlehem Steel, which recently opened a $300 million cold-steel mill at its Sparrows Point complex near Baltimore.
Bethlehem Steel officials argue that Japan, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Thailand were dumping cold-steel imports in this country and harming U.S. manufacturers.
The ITC disagreed. Commission Chairman Lynn Bragg wrote a dissenting view in support of the steel industry in November, but declined to be interviewed on the issue Friday.
Cold-rolled steel is so named because it is processed a second time in a cold mill after the hot process, to make the steel thinner or to give it a surface. That steel is used to manufacture products such as refrigerators, washing machines and automobiles.