While the Americans pat themselves on the back over the recent US Department of Commerce decision to impose import tariffs on South Korea and eight other countries, it is now the Koreans who talking about level playing fields.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, officials inside the Korean embassy in Washington have criticised the DOC decision, claiming it disturbs the playing field – the one the Americans claimed wasn't level in the first place. Now, the Koreans argue, the newly announced import tariffs make the playing field 'uneven for some players', bringing to mind the phrase 'one man's meat is another man's poison'.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, like US Steel Corporation's CEO Mario Longhi, welcomed the DOC decision. Recently, Longhi had talked about how American steel companies had been 'targetted for elimination'. Now, he says the decision to impose import tariffs will save jobs and the US economy.

Thomas J. Gibson, president and CEO of the American Iron and Steel Institute said that imports from South Korea and the other implicated countries have surged in recent years. "We are pleased that the Commerce Department has reversed its preliminary determination with respect to Korea and taken this critical step to find that imports from all nine investigated countries are benefitting from unfair trade practices," he said.

Gibson said it was critical that the US government continues to aggressively and strictly enforce US trade laws to ensure that relief is provided to steelmakers and steelworkers.

According to Gibson, the affirmative decision allows the case to move forward to the International Trade Commission where he is “confident they will also recognise that the unfairly traded imports are causing injury to the domestic industry.”

A report in the Los Angeles Times says that the biggest dumping duty of 118% has been levied on Thailand, the smallest of all the importing countries involved. The other countries affected include Vietnam, India, Turkey, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Ukraine (not forgetting South Korea, by far the dominant shipper).

China was not part of the DOC's list of offending exporters last week as the US has already levied what the LA Times called 'big anti-dumping tariffs' on Chinese tubular goods in 2010, a move which 'virtually halted its imports in that category'.