Britain’s steelmakers are warning of the potential damage to legitimate UK exports to the United States as a result of being caught up in US protectionist measures to counter the dumping of cheap Chinese steel.

The warning comes on the back of President Trump’s initiation of a ‘Section 232’ investigation into the effects of steel imports on US national security.

According to UK Steel, total exports to the US in the last 12 months were 250kt, worth some £350m, which accounts for almost 8% of total exports from the UK. With 70% of UK steel exports currently going to the EU the US is, therefore, one of our biggest extra-EU markets.

UK Steel is now in discussions with the UK government to seek further clarification and representation and is currently working with its members to gain a full understanding of the potential impact to the sector.

“Whilst the full details of the scope of this investigation are still unclear, this is undoubtedly a worrying development," said Gareth Stace, director of UK Steel. "The UK sector is entirely supportive of measures taken to tackle dumping of steel products and unscrupulous trading practices, but this move has the potential to go much further than necessary.

“The principle of free trade is of huge importance to the global steel sector, and any action that moves us away from it is a significant concern. Trade defence instruments must be seen as a last resort to protect domestic industries and ultimately boost global free trade. This move at least has the potential to cross the line into protectionism which in the long term can only be harmful to the global sector.

UK Steel is the representative body for the Steel Industry in the UK and a division of EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation.