European steel association Eurofer is calling for quota-based safeguard trade measures even though the European Union has been temporarily exempted from the United States' Section 232 tariffs.
The US will delay imposing steel and aluminium tariffs - of 25% and 10% respectively - against several countries while negotiations to exempt them more permanently take place.
The EU was among the countries exempted from Section 232 duties until May 1 of this year.
“The US has only suspended the EU’s inclusion provisionally,” Axel Eggert, director-general of Eurofer, said on Friday March 23.
“I thank commissioner [Cecilia] Malmström and the European Commission for their determined efforts to get the EU excluded from measures, and this is the case for now, he said. “The risk is that President Donald Trump will only extend the suspension if substantial concessions are made before May 1. We now need clarity about ways the EU and the US can come to a longer-term, common understanding before May 1.”
Eurofer has pushed for safeguarding measures to ensure the stability of the EU steel market. These remain relevant given that the various other countries also presently suspended from inclusion might ultimately be hit with the Section 232 measures.
And the risk of damaging trade deflections remains high, according to Eurofer.
“The European steel industry has crawled through a decade of [externally driven crises, from which] we are only just emerging,” Eggert said. “We cannot face seeing this fragile recovery put at risk as a result of steel [being] deflected from the US market. This is why we [are calling] for quickly deployed, broad, quota-based safeguards that keep the EU market open but fully reflect the scope of the US measures.”
Although quotas are not welcomed by the World Trade Organization (WTO), the EU can set quotas based on import volumes over the past three years, a trade lawyer said. Such measures are agreed upon by WTO as exceptional measures.
The EU exports about 5 million tonnes of steel products to the US every year.
“The danger to the EU steel market has not disappeared. The EU is a larger importer of steel than the US - 40 million tonnes last year compared with the 35 million tonnes [in the US],” Eggert said.
In the first two months of 2018, steel imports in the EU increased by 12% year on year.