ALJ Lord has determined, sua sponte, to suspend the USITC’s Section 337 investigations in Certain Carbon and Alloy Steel Products, Inv. No. 337-TA-1002, on the grounds that the investigation “comes at least ‘in part’ within the purview of the antidumping and countervailing laws . . . [and] therefore requires that the Commission notify the Secretary of Commerce” before determining how to proceed.

The ITC only recently instituted the investigation that is now suspended (its Notice issued on May 26th). The investigation is based on alleged violations of Section 337 by the Chinese steel industry, including antitrust, false designation of origin, and trade secret claims. Section 337(b)(3) requires that the ITC notify the Secretary of Commerce “[w]henever, in the course of an investigation under this section, the Commission has reason to believe . . . that a matter, in whole or in part, may come within the purview of” the antidumping or countervailing duty laws. The ALJ notes that “the antitrust claims explicitly rely upon determinations by the Commission and the Commerce Department that the Chinese government subsidizes the Chinese steel industry, and that Chinese steel manufacturers sell their products at less than fair value” and that the “false designation of origin claims are based explicitly upon Respondents’ alleged evasion of antidumping and countervailing duty orders issued by the Commerce Department.” The ALJ further notes the pendency of several ongoing Commerce Department investigations related to the steel products at issue in the investigation. Invoking a little-used Commission Rule that permits suspension of a Section 337 investigation on motion or sua sponte by the presiding ALJ or Commission “because of proceedings before the Secretary of Commerce,” ALJ Lord ordered suspension of the investigation “to allow the Commission to provide the statutorily required notice to the Secretary of Commerce.”

Although the ALJ’s order does not specify a time frame for the suspension, it suggests that “[b]efore lifting the suspension of this Investigation, the Commission may consider whether it is appropriate to wait for a response from the Department of Commerce or to further investigate U.S. Steel’s claims before remanding to the Administrative Law Judge for further proceedings.” The ALJ’s order was issued as an “Initial Determination,” which means that it is subject to Commission review.