EU steel safeguard to ease slower than anticipated, official review shows

19 August 2019 8:08pm
manufacturing steel worker

14 August 2019. By Poppy Carnell.

Baowu Steel, Posco, Tata Steel and other global steelmakers will be able to export less steel to Europe tariff-free than previously expected under the European Commission’s revised safeguard measure due out today, MLex has learned.

In a review of the measures, seen by MLex, the EU executive proposes to increase the amount of imports allowed tariff-free by 3 percent a year, rather than the 5 percent previously foreseen.

The EU executive will also impose a 30 percent cap on any individual country using the global tariff-free quotas for hot rolled steel, wire rod and rebar, MLex understands. Certain goods categories have also changed.*

The EU’s steel safeguard measure, which came into force in July 2018, affects 26 goods such as hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel and steel plates, used in cars, construction and household appliances.

Activated in part in retaliation to US steel safeguards, it imposes limits on tariff-free imports to the EU, with the ceilings divided into country-specific quotas and global quotas.

The commission opened a review in May, as required by the EU safeguard regulation, in case quotas or the structure of the measure needed tweaking. The result of this review is due for release on the World Trade Organization’s website today.

In the copy of the paper seen by MLex, the safeguard measure will be eased by only 3 percent a year for its final two years. Investigators said that import figures, which weren’t available for the last probe, show that import levels were much higher than previous years and therefore there was a higher threat of injury to European businesses.

— Country cap —

Several countries also ramped up their exports of particular steel products, leading the EU to introduce a limit of 30 percent on how much of the global quota any one country can use.

Turkey, India and Serbia have mostly increased their imports in hot-rolled steel to Europe. So too has Russia, despite facing EU dumping tariffs on the same good, the paper says.

On wire rod and rebar, the commission noted that ”smaller supplying countries” that previously supplied the EU with the goods “were not able to export in the last quarter any substantial volumes” because “other countries benefiting from a country-specific [quota] had used virtually the whole [global quota] in the last quarter, sometimes in a matter of days.” The cap for both products will therefore apply "during the last quarter during the remaining life of the measures," the executive says.

— Category changes —

In the original safeguard probe, the commission divided metallic coated sheets into two categories: those used by the car sector, and those not. This was to help carmakers and ensure they weren’t competing with other industries for the cheaper steel. There will now be tougher requirements for importers having to prove the goods’ end use is for the automotive sector to benefit from this sub-quota.

Large welded tubes will now face just one global quota, and the country-specific limit will disappear. This is because Russia, the main exporter at the time of the original probe, hasn’t used much of its individual cap.

Indonesia will now also see tariffs above a quota on stainless steel sheets and strips and certain seamless tubes.

The commission proposes to bring the adjusted measures into force on Oct. 1.