From The Editor

Cliffs Pins Partial Blame on USS for ITC Ruling

By on
MCN Editor Dan Markham

For Cleveland-Cliffs and the United Steelworkers, there’s been a lot of blame to go around for the recent decision to idle the company’s Weirton, W.Va., facility. The decision came following the United States International Trade Commission’s determination not to impose antidumping and countervailing duties on certain tin mill products, despite a recommendation from the Commerce Department.

Their frustration, of course, begins with the countries targeted in the initial petition: China, Canada, Germany, South Korea, the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the United Kingdom, a mix of reliable trade partners and frequent targets of U.S. producers’ ire. Four of those countries – the Netherlands, Taiwan, Turkey and the UK – were not recommended for tariffs by Commerce.

But the U.S. ITC also rejected the suggestion of the Commerce Department to impose tariffs ranging from 5 percent on Canadian imports to 123 percent on products from China, earning rebuke from both the steelmaker and the union.

Most recently, Cliffs boss Lourenco Goncalves singled out a different culprit to share some of the blame for the decision, one-time acquisition target U.S. Steel.

"It is now clear that the decision by United States Steel Corporation not to participate as a petitioner in this trade case – or provide a substantive response to the ITC’s request for further information on the idling of tin lines in Gary and East Chicago, Ind., and the closure of UPI in California – directly led to the ITC’s negative determination. Had U.S. Steel cooperated with the ITC, the commission would not have been left without the information needed to discern the market forces behind U.S. Steel’s withdrawal from the tin mill products market in the United States,” said Goncalves, known industrywide for his willing to freely share his thoughts.

“U.S. Steel’s January 2022 announcement that it would shut down its UPI tin mill in Pittsburg, Calif., left the West Coast completely exposed to imports, particularly from Asian countries like Japan and China. This decision played a major role in the surge of imported tin mill product that hit the U.S. in mid-2022 and decimated the domestic industry, harming workers and communities. In spite of U.S. Steel’s intransigence, I am grateful for the partnership of the USW that allowed this case to go forward. The report issued this week made clear that, unfortunately, the ITC discounted the filings and testimony of the USW that clearly articulated how its members at Cleveland-Cliffs and U.S. Steel had been materially injured by unfair trade.”

The USW, which remains mired in its own negotiations around U.S. Steel’s pending acquisition by Nippon Steel, did not offer its own take on the steelmakers’ culpability in the tariff failure.