Concern About Possible Steel Import Restrictions
It was too early to know how proposed safeguard action by the United States against steel product imports would affect New Zealand, Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton said today.
The United States Administration has asked its International Trade Commission (ITC) to initiate a Section 201 safeguard investigation into imports of a broad range of steel products.
Mr Sutton said the ITC had to investigate and make recommendations, and then the United States Administration would decide how to respond to those recommendations, bearing in mind of course, the United States's obligations under the World Trade Organisation.
"New Zealand's concern is that we export into the United States market a variety of steel products that come within the ambit of the ITC investigation."
Mr Sutton said officials would talk to steel exporters to establish the major areas of concern and how the ITC's hearings should be handled.
Steel exporters can contact the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry's Americas division (through 04 4948500) if they have interests in the United States market.
Mr Sutton noted that the ITC had 120 days from 22 June to announce its injury findings.
During that time the ITC will hold a public hearing and receive briefs from interested parties. If the ITC found injury, it would then have 60 days to make recommendations to the President about a remedy. The President would subsequently take a decision.
The United States is New Zealand's second largest market for both steel and steel products. New Zealand's total exports of steel and steel products were worth NZ$294 million and NZ$209 million respectively in the year ending April 2001. Exports of steel to the US were valued at NZ$58.1 million in the year to April (down from NZ$67.5 million in the previous year), and our exports of steel products to the US were worth NZ$18.1 million (down from NZ$20.7 million).
New Zealand's steel exports to the United States are mainly flat-rolled, non-alloy steel. Our major exports of steel products include table, kitchen and household articles, tube and pipe fittings, stoves and ranges, sanitary ware and other cast articles.
Under Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, the ITC is charged with investigating whether or not increased imports of steel are a substantial cause (or threat) of serious injury to the United States steel industry.
The Administration has requested that the ITC look at a very broad range of steel items including certain carbon and alloy flat, long, pipe and tube steel products, and stainless and alloy tool steel products.