(Adds details from Commerce Department, background)
WASHINGTON, Sept 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. Commerce Department is investigating whether titanium sponge imports from Japan and Kazakhstan are being unfairly dumped in the United States and whether Kazakh producers are receiving unfair subsidies, the department said on Friday.
The anti-dumping duty and countervailing duty probes were being initiated following petitions from U.S.-based Titanium Metals Corp, part of Berkshire Hathaway Inc's Precision Castparts Corp, the department said in a statement.
The investigations come amid a larger effort by the Trump administration aimed at helping U.S. companies better compete with imports, including Chinese steel.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who is scheduled to with Trump at the White House on Friday morning, said in the statement his department would make its decision "at the earliest opportunity."
According to the Commerce Department, 2016 imports of titanium sponge from Japan and Kazakhstan were estimated at $144.8 million and $374,000, respectively.
Titanium sponge is a porous form of titanium resulting from the first stage of processing the metal for use in the aerospace, electronic, architectural and sports equipment industries. (Reporting by Justin Mitchell; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott)