Global steel trade barriers here to stay as U.S.-Sino tensions simmer
The U.S. administration is moving to moderate its steel trade tariffs but countries in Europe and beyond are loath to lower protections for their steelmakers as long as U.S.-China trade tensions prevail.
Since slapping 25 percent tariffs on all U.S. steel imports in March, Washington has struck deals with countries including South Korea, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa to end the tariffs in exchange for import quotas.
The United States, the world’s biggest steel importer, is widely expected to sign similar deals with Canada and Mexico this year, and is in talks with India, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and the EU about tariff deals.
It has also granted thousands of tariff exemption requests from U.S. steel consumers.
Still, countries or regions with relatively open markets like Europe are scrambling to protect their steel industry, fearing more exports from China if its economy slows further as a result of the wider U.S.-Sino trade war.
Steel imports into Europe rose 10 percent in the third quarter even though the block slapped safeguard tariffs on imports of the metal in July to protect against redirected trade flows from the U.S. tariffs.
China accounts for about a fifth of the world’s 460 million tonnes of steel exports and produces half the world’s 1.6 billion tonnes of steel, a $900 billion strategic industry seen as critical for economic growth.
The global steel sector can little afford a surge in Chinese steel exports given it already has some 560 million tonnes of spare capacity, a figure that is expected to increase over the next two years just as demand growth ebbs.
Below is a list of key steel trade barriers, looming or current, put in place the world over since the U.S. tariff move.
- 11: Canada said it would impose new quotas and tariffs on imports of seven categories of steel to head off a potential rise in imports, as overseas steelmakers that were shut out of the United States sought new customers.
- 8: Turkey said it would introduce quotas on the amount of steel it imported, with an additional 25 percent duty levied on any imports above the quotas, blaming a surge in imports.
- SEPTEMBER: Sources told Reuters the European Commission was set to make its safeguards definitive next year, extending them for five years regardless of whether Washington strikes quota deals with more nations.
- 4: Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Kazakhstan and Armenia launched a safeguard investigation into certain flat rolled steel products.
- JULY 18: The European Commission said it would launch safeguard measures designed to prevent a surge of steel imports into the bloc following the U.S. imposition of tariffs on incoming steel and aluminum.
- JULY 17: A government source said India was planning to impose “safeguards” on steel imports if volumes coming into the country increased beyond a certain level.
- JUNE 21: India, the world’s biggest buyer of U.S. almonds, raised import duties on the commodity and on some grades of iron and steel products.
- JUNE 5: Mexico imposed 25 percent duties on American steel, while also targeting politically sensitive agricultural products from pork to bourbon.
- JUNE 1: The EU said it would impose a 25 percent tariff on about 2.8 billion euros of imports of steel, agricultural products and other goods such as Harley-Davidson motorcycles and bourbon whiskey.
- MAY 31: Canada said it would impose tariffs covering $12.8 billion of imports from the United States, including whiskey, orange juice, steel, aluminum and other products.
- APRIL 2: China slapped extra tariffs of up to 25 percent on 128 U.S. products including frozen pork, wine, fruits and nuts and steel tubes and pipes, in response to U.S. duties on imports of aluminum and steel.