US puts China steel cylinders under anti-dumping probe

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump's Commerce Department has announced an anti-dumping probe against Chinese imports of steel propane tanks, with producers accused of dumping and unfair subsidies.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest in a series of disputes the Trump administration has taken up against Beijing, the largest of which are the looming 25 per cent tariffs on US$50 billion (S$66.8 billion) in Chinese goods amid complaints the country is stealing US technology, reported Reuters.

The frictions with the Asian giant, as well as the latest conflict with allies like Canada and the European Union, have threatened to spill over into a global trade war.

The latest complaint, lodged by US manufacturers in Ohio and Tennessee, argues that China is dumping and unfairly subsidising the steel cylinders, which allegedly land on the US market at below cost, creating unfair competition for US companies, including two that filed a complaint with the Commerce Department.

The complaint says China subsidises production by 55 to 109 per cent through a variety of programmes, including taxes, grants and export credits for nearly US$90 million in exports.

If the Commerce Department determines that China provides the industry with unfair subsidies and is dumping the products, it will impose anti-dumping and countervailing duties to make the prices similar to US competitors.

The case also alleges dumping of the steel tanks by Taiwan and Thailand at lower rates.

Last year, the United States imported more than US$100 million in propane cylinders from the three countries combined, according to the Commerce Department.

While imports of the steel propane cylinders from China were pegged at US$89.8 million in 2017, imports from Taiwan added up to US$10.1 million. Thai imports were worth US$14.1 million.

Preliminary results of the trade probe will be released by July 6.

US President Trump has made reducing the country's trade deficits a top priority since taking office in January last year, and has taken a particularly harsh stance against China.

The Commerce Department has opened 118 investigations into dumping and unfair government subsidies since Mr Trump took office, reported The Nikkei Asian Review.

The investigation will be carried out by the US International Trade Commission.

If evidence of dumping or unfair subsidies is unearthed by the probe, US Customs and Border Protection will be instructed to collect cash deposits from American companies that import the cylinders.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 14, 2018, with the headline 'US puts China steel cylinders under anti-dumping probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe