EU steel safeguard must “prevent import surges” but “ensure EU market access to international steel flows” says european steel industry

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In March the European Commission launched a safeguard investigation to shield the industry against a sudden surge of imports in the wake of the US’ decision to impose blanket tariffs on foreign steel. These ‘Section 232’ tariffs have spurred EU action, but the safeguard investigation is taking place in the context of global overcapacity and the deflection of otherwise US-bound imports towards the EU. “The safeguard mechanism should be broad, but the purpose is not to close the market, as some steel importers have claimed. The EU safeguard mechanism explicitly serves only to prevent a further, sudden surge in imports resulting from deviated steel trade flows”, said Axel Eggert, Director General of the European Steel Association (EUROFER).  EU steel imports have increased significantly, from 18 million tonnes in 2013 to 30 million tonnes in 2017 – a 66% rise. In the first quarter of 2018 alone, steel imports surged by another 8% year-on-year.  “There have been claims made by some steel importers that the safeguard will close the EU market to imports. This is concretely untrue – these are claims made by undertakings that benefit from unsustainably low-priced, dumped imports”, emphasised Mr Eggert. “In practice, the safeguard will guarantee the open access of steel trade flows to the EU market at a nevertheless historically high level”.  In establishing a safeguard measure, the EU trade defence rules explicitly refer to the desirability of maintaining established import flows rather than closing the EU market. “Let me be clear: the safeguard shall not cause a shortage of supply or cause safeguard-linked steel price increases”, concluded Mr Eggert. “In the meantime, we also welcome that the EU has addressed the US tariffs at the WTO in order to find a global solution as soon as possible.”

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