Turkish steel exporters complain that the United States has deployed protective measures against imported steel and that it has become more active in these areas in recent years. The new Trump administration is likely to be more protectionist than its predecessors, which may be one reason that Namik Ekinci, chairman of the Turkish Steel Exporters’ Association, is speaking out at this time.
Another reason is that the U.S. has broadened its attack against Turkish steel imports since 2013.
Trade cases were limited to standard pipes and light-walled rectangular pipe and tube until 2013. Since then eleven anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations have been initiated against Turkish OCTG, rebar, welded line pipe, steel nails, heavy walled rectangular welded pipes and tubes, hot-rolled steel flat products, and cut-to-length plate products.
The Steel Exporter’s Association is a business association of nearly one-thousand producer and exporter companies in the Turkish steel industry. Turkey is the world’s tenth largest exporter and ninth largest producer of steel and trade with 200 countries around the world.
To be clear, Ekinci absolutely denies that Turkish steel producers are behaving in an unlawful fashion. As far as he is concerned, no case brought by the U.S. for anti-dumping and/or countervailing duties is ever justified.
“It is totally understandable that the U.S. lodges trade cases to protect its market and industry against dumped and subsidized imports,” Ekinci said. “However, the Turkish steel industry is composed of private companies that are in no way subsidized by the government.” In other words, the Turkish industry doesn’t sell at a loss and claims to the contrary are not supported by the facts. Ekinci allows, however, that Turkish producers “use imported input in production and export on low profit margins.”
In one countervailing duty investigation against Turkey in 2013, the U.S., according to Ekinci, concluded that a publicly-held private steel company from Turkey was a “public body.” But a Canadian trade case against the same product found no evidence that the company had a public connection.
Several cases lodged against Turkish rebar resulted in zero dumping margin and zero or very small subsidy margins. In other words, the investigation found no evidence of substantial subsidies or other unlawful activity. The fact that cases are repeatedly brought against the same product leads Ekinci to conclude that the “trade cases are lodged under the political pressure exerted by domestic producers.”
Although the Turkish steel industry often prevails in U.S. trade cases, the arduous process compromises trade relations between the two countries and undermines WTO rules, according to Ekinci.
“We think this attitude by the U.S. sets a bad example for other countries and jeopardizes global free trade,” he said. “We have our concerns that such an attitude by the U.S. will become harsher in upcoming years,” a reference to the presumably protectionist-minded Trump administration.
“Today all steel companies in Turkey are privately held, and Turkish steelmakers continue to pursue technological developments to enhance the long-term viability of the industry in the global marketplace,” said Ekinci. “The steel industry has become one of the most developed sectors in Turkey and today counts as the fifth largest.