EU leaders are gathering in Brussels today and tomorrow for a European Council meeting. In light of President Trump’s Section 232 25% import tariffs on steel, the European Steel Association (EUROFER) is calling on EU member states to stand united in backing 'a broad, firm and decisive response to safeguard the viability of the EU steel industry and its 320,000 jobs'.
According to Axel Eggert, director general of EUROFER, the EU and the US have close economic, political, military and cultural ties. He said that European steel has always been a reliable supplier to US steel users, but argues that Section 232 measures 'fly in the face of this close partnership'.
“We are already seeing the effects of Trump’s announcement”, said Eggert. “In the first two months of this year imports surged by 12% over and above the historic highs of 2016-2017”.
This rise is on top of the 65% rise seen over the past five years. Steel imports into the EU have now reached 40Mt, making the EU by far the largest steel import market in the world, even before the US tariffs came into being. For certain products, such as rebar, the import surge has already been as much as 75%.
“The deflection of steel trade flows to Europe would badly hurt us and sectors related to us. Clear and immediate decisions need to be taken by EU leaders to prevent this injury”, Eggert said. “What we need now is comprehensive safeguard measures that limit imports of all steel covered by the US measures products to the levels of the past few years”.
EUROFER advocates safeguards that cover the scope of the steel products covered by the US measure. All of these product categories will suffer trade deflection, up to an estimated total of 13Mt, possibly straight onto the open EU market. A quota safeguard would ensure the EU market remains open but avoid the risks of inundation by deflected steel.
“In addition, the EU must continue to demand full exclusion from the US measures”, Eggert stressed.
Eggert is hoping that the European Council will take the need to counter the US move decisively and without delay. “However, EU leaders should also continue their dialogue with the US by supporting the work already underway in the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity,” he concluded.