India-based JSW Steel Ltd. claims three of the largest American steelmakers conspired to stifle competition by refusing to sell raw metal to its U.S. pipe and plate-making operations after the Trump administration imposed imports on cheaper foreign supplies.
U.S. Steel Corp., Nucor Corp. and Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. control more than 80% of domestic steelmaking capacity and conspired to cause direct harm to JSW, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Houston federal court.
JSW said it hasn’t been able to get enough semi-finished steel slab from suppliers outside the U.S. since the tariffs were imposed in 2018. When the American companies refused to supply metal, JSW said its costs rose. The refusal also led to higher steel prices for U.S. buyers at a time when domestic prices of the metal are near a record, JSW said.
“When the tariffs were imposed we were working hard at getting exclusions and these companies had said: ‘Don’t worry about it, you don’t need an exclusion to bring in slabs, we can supply all you need,”’ JSW board member John Hritz said in an interview. “We went down that road with them, and we tried our best to work with them, but never once did they ever supply us slabs.”
Spokeswomen at U.S. Steel and at Nucor each said their companies don’t comment on pending litigation. Cleveland-Cliffs also said it’s not their policy to comment on litigation.
For More: JSW Sues Top Competitors With Steel Slab Sales Boycott Claim
JSW originally supported Trump’s efforts to protect the American steel industry before suing in 2019 for relief, saying then that the U.S. Commerce Department wrongfully denied waivers for steel-slab raw materials, forcing the steel processor to pay tens of millions of dollars in tariffs. Nucor at the time objected to one of JSW’s exclusion requests, saying giving slab production to American mills was “exactly the outcome intended” by the tariffs.
“Clearly the end goal — and they succeeded — was to stop us from getting exclusions,” Hritz said.
Nucor produced 24.4 million metric tons of steel in 2017 and told Commerce it could supply 42 million tons to companies seeking waivers, according to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. U.S. Steel had said it could produce 49 million tons, more than three times its production in 2017.
In early 2020, JSW Steel USA board member Parth Jindal told Bloomberg Businessweek the tariffs were “hypocritical” and “dumbfounding.”
The case is JSW Steel v. Nucor, 21-cv-01842, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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