Administration of the Steel Trigger Price Mechanism

ID-80-15: Published: Jul 23, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 23, 1980.

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The steel trigger price mechanism (TPM) was established to speed up antidumping investigations. If imports were priced below preestablished trigger prices, the Treasury Department, which originally administered the program with the Customs Service, and later the Department of Commerce, could initiate antidumping investigations without prior industry complaint.

GAO believed that Customs may have overlooked a large volume of potential dumping, based on criteria it and Treasury used. The tonnage criteria were only for some product categories and not directly related to potential inquiries into the domestic steel industry. During the sample period, unconfirmed below-trigger-price imports amounted to 2.4 million tons, 40 percent of total covered imports. An estimated 355,700 tons were likely to be significantly below-trigger-price. This was almost six times greater than the 61,800 tons that Customs recommended for antidumping investigations or which could be associated with antidumping investigations. Total imports from those foreign firms which accounted for the 355,700 tons were 1.6 million tons, 27 percent of all imports covered by trigger prices during the sample period. GAO found a number of weaknesses in Customs administration. These included initial price comparison errors, delays in recording data, insufficient inquiries unanswered for a long time, and insufficient review of available information. Only four audits of steel-importing companies had been made, and the three completed by September 1979 did not adequately conform to audit objectives. Treasury may not have exercised sufficient care in handling Customs recommendations and investigations. The program was suspended in March 1980 when U.S. Steel filed major antidumping petitions.

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