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NEW YORK — The potential impact of a U.S. ban on stainless steel imports from Viraj Profiles Ltd. drew mixed views as the International Trade Commission clarified its action, noting that the Indian manufacturer lied about its document production, obstructed the judicial proceedings and intentionally destroyed evidence during the agency's Section 337 investigation.
“Viraj Profiles’ failure to identify and produce for forensic inspection 36 USB (computer storage) devices ... although certainly sufficient for sanctions, was just the tip of the iceberg because the forensic inspection revealed much more misconduct,” the ITC said June 9 in an opinion on the investigation. “The additional misconduct included numerous false representations by Viraj Profiles in this investigation. It repeatedly denied—at times, under oath—that it had taken or had in its possession (Valbruna Slater Stainless Inc.’s) operating practices.”
The ITC had issued a limited exclusion and cease-and-desist order against Mumbai-based Viraj in May, which stemmed from a complaint alleging the theft of trade secrets from Fort Wayne, Ind.-based Valbruna (amm.com, May 26).
“It’s (the ban) definitely going to cause a price increase. It’s going to be immediate,” one stainless distributor source said. “Hold off on imports. ... Domestic is the way to go.”
A second stainless distributor also is expecting prices to increase. “There may be some moderate price increases from other Indian suppliers like (Venus Wire Industries Pvt. Ltd.) and (Aamor Inox Ltd.). We’ll keep our eyes open for an expected increase at some point,” he said.
One manufacturer source, who buys stainless product from distributors, expressed some anxiety about potential price spikes.
“Everyone benefits from higher prices in general, but spikes are hard to manage,” he said. “If they shoot up quickly and you don’t have a good handle on your demand and you’re buying more or less than you should, you risk outages or obsoletion. We try to stay as close to demand as possible.”
However, two other distributor sources were slightly more cautious about the ban’s potential impact.
“Seems like there could be a little strain on the supply side, and demand is constant,” a third stainless distributor source said. “It’s not like the other (foreign suppliers) are (at maximum) capacity though, so there should be no problem filling it in.”
Still, there’s “a lot of their product in the marketplace,” he added.
“On round bar, (the ban) doesn’t seem to be having an effect yet, but any time there is a disruption in supply people capitalize on that pretty quickly," a fourth stainless distributor said. "It’s good for inventory values, but if you have to sell it based on replacement it’s going to cost you.”
U.S. imports of stainless steel product from India—including ingot, flat-rolled, bars and wire—totaled 16,041 tonnes in the first quarter of this year, down 7.4 percent from 17,328 tonnes in the same period last year but up 15 percent from 13,945 tonnes in the comparable 2014 period.
In the same comparison, the value of those quarterly imports dropped 22.3 percent to an average price of $2,679.97 per tonne from $3,449.42 per tonne in the same period a year earlier and were down 15.8 percent from $3,184.02 per tonne in the first quarter of 2014.