Asian steel in the oil fields cost Texans jobs

When most people see a flatbed truck loaded with drill pipe rolling west on Interstate 10, it’s a reminder of the thousands of oil and gas wells that are driving the booming Texas economy.

When steelworkers in Bellville see those trucks, though, they’re reminded why their plant, which makes similar pipe 60 miles west of Houston, is shutting down next month.

The decision by Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel to idle the Bellville mill – as well as one in Pennsylvania – reflects the cutthroat international market for steel that has led some Asian producers to use their excess capacity and dump what are called “oil country tubular goods” in the United States.

A complaint against these producers, now before the International Trade Commission, offers yet another lesson in the difference between free trade and fair trade, and why the fine print in international agreements is so important.

If this were a simple case of another nation producing something more efficiently, there would be little room to complain. But in this case, the prices are below the production costs in South Korea, and the companies make the pipe almost exclusively for export, since South Korea has almost no oil or gas wells.
July 17, 2014
Houston Chronicle