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Watchdog accepts Chinese mills' offer to hike steel beam prices

South Korea's trade commission said Friday that it will close an anti-dumping probe into steel beam products made by seven Chinese companies as they have agreed to jack up their prices voluntarily.

In late July 2014, the Korea Trade Commission (KTC) started an anti-dumping investigation into H-beam imports from China and slapped anti-dumping duties of 17.69 percent to 32.72 percent on Chinese products five months later.

The commission said it has decided to end the investigation as the Chinese companies under investigation submitted a proposal to mark up export prices for H-beams by 24 percent compared to the fourth quarter of last year.

"The price hike can protect local producers from unfair price-cutting by foreign rivals," it said. "Once the plan is formally accepted by the finance ministry, all ongoing probes against the seven mills will be dropped."

The move will affect products made by Hebei Jinxi Iron and Steel Group that account for 85 percent of all H-beams shipped from China to South Korea along with six other steel mills. These companies shipped 680,000 tons of H-beams in 2013 worth 430 billion won ($394.3 million).

"The voluntary price hike marks the first time that foreign companies under probe agreed to jointly mark up prices to avoid being slapped with anti-dumping duties," the KTC said.

The commission said the latest measure will help restore the price competitiveness of local steelmakers such as Hyundai Steel and Dongkuk Steel Mill Co.

Chinese mills can benefit as well because they need not pay punitive duties and can get a better price on products they ship to South Korea, it added.

The trade watchdog, however, said it will complete its investigation into Chinese mills that have not opted to hike up prices, with a ruling due out later this month.

The local market for H-beams, which are widely used in the construction of buildings, stood at 2.25 trillion won in 2013, with Chinese products making up 23.1 percent. (Yonhap)