Trade war brews as biggest U.S. steelmaker accuses Chinese steel firms of malpractices

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The biggest U.S. steel maker has accused China’s biggest steel companies and their distributors of conspiring to fix prices, stealing trade secrets and circumventing duties on steel imports through false labelling of products and wants a total ban of Chinese products.

U.S. Steel said in a statement it had filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which has 30 days to decide whether to initiate an investigation.

“We have said that we will use every tool available to fight for fair trade,” the Pittsburg-based steelmaker’s President and Chief Executive Officer Mario Longhi said, after the company posted a net loss of $340 million for the first quarter. U.S. Steel has lost money in the seven of the past eight quarters.

“With today’s filing, we continue the work we have pursued through countervailing and antidumping cases and pushing for increased enforcement of existing laws,” Longhi said.

U.S. media quoted a U.S. Steel spokesperson as saying that the allegation regarding stolen trade secrets is based on the 2014 federal indictment of five members of the Chinese for hacking the computer systems of U.S. Steel, Allegheny Technologies, Westinghouse, Alcoa and the United Steelworkers union. None of those defendants have been brought to trial.

The latest complaint is one of several major trade cases that U.S. Steel and other domestic producers have filed against steel makers from China and other countries, alleging they are subsidising their steel producers and selling steel below market costs.

It comes days representatives of several nations met in Brussels to discuss cheap steel from China and find ways to put life back into the global steel prices that have slumped due to over-capacities created by falling demand due to a slowing Chinese economy.

The U.S. Steel complaint was filed under a section of a 1930 law that allows U.S. officials to exclude all unfairly traded products covered by the complaint from the market.

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