'Deviated steel trade flows' are a big worry for the European steel industry and that is why the European Commission last month launched a safeguard investigation with a view to shielding the industry from a sudden surge of imports following the USA's decision to impose blanket tariffs on foreign steel.

According to an announcement by the European Steel Association (EUROFER) the safeguard should be broad but, as EUROFER director general Axel Eggert pointed out yesterday, it's purpose is not to close the market but to prevent a further surge in imports resulting from those 'deviated steel trade flows' – in other words, steel originally destined for the USA that might re-route itself to Europe when it discovers there is no room at the inn in the USA.

"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," Eggert said, adding that, in practice, the safeguard will guarantee the open access of steel trade flows to the EU market at a nevertheless 'historically high level'.

According to EUROFER, in establishing a safeguard measure, the EU trade defence rules explicitly refer to the desirability of maintaining established import flows rather than close the EU market.

Eggert stressed that the safeguard will not cause a shortage of supply or price increases. He welcomed the fact that the EU had addressed the issue of US tariffs at the World Trade Organisation 'in order to find a global solution as soon as possible'.

• EU steel imports have increased significantly, from 18Mt in 2013 to 30Mt in 2017 – a rise of 66%. In Q1 2018 steel imports surged by another 8% year-on-year, claims EUROFER.