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EU sets steel duties to shield industry against US tariff fallout

Brussels – The European Union is introducing protective steel tariffs this week to shield its own manufacturers against a surge in imports as a consequence of US steel tariffs, the bloc's executive has announced.

According to the European Commission, the EU has seen an increase in steel products reaching its market since US President Donald Trump imposed 25-per-cent tariffs on steel imports.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said the bloc had "no other choice" but to introduce measures to protect the domestic steel industry, which is already suffering due to global overcapacity.

"The US tariffs on steel products are causing trade diversion, which may result in serious harm to EU steelmakers and workers in this industry," Malmstrom added.

Protective measures

From Thursday, the EU will introduce 25-per-cent tariffs on 23 categories of steel products, which will only come into effect once imports of those products exceed the current average, based on figures from the last three years.

Malmstrom said she was convinced that the measures "strike the right balance between the interest of EU producers and users of steel, like the automotive industry and the construction sector, who rely on imports."

But the EU automotive industry said it "strongly regrets" the move, in a statement issued by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) on Wednesday.

"These measures will be damaging to our competitiveness, as they will lead to steel price increases in the EU market – where prices are already very high," said ACEA chief Erik Jonnaert.

Tariff rate quota

The commission's provisional measure can be in place for up to 200 days, with a final decision due by early 2019.
The move had been promised as part of the EU's response to the US tariff hike. The bloc has also raised counterbalancing tariffs on 2.8 billion euros (3.3 billion dollars) worth of US goods.

EU member states have shown "overwhelming support" for the new measure, known as a tariff rate quota, the commission said.

The commission previously said that it is also keeping a close eye on aluminium imports to Europe, after Trump placed a 10-per-cent tariff on any goods headed for the US market.