UK prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out more extensive tariffs on steel imports to protect jobs in Britain, even though the move risks breaking international law.
According to a report in UK newspaper the Financial Times, the prime minister has announced provisional plans to extend existing steel tariffs — largely on developed countries and China — by a further two years, with a final decision expected before some of them expire on 30 June. He is also set to expand import limits to other, mostly developing, countries to prevent a flood of steel imports, saying that doing the opposite and lifting restrictions was not ‘the right way forward’.
“The government’s interventions will guard against anticipated surges in imports from trade diverted away from the US and EU markets that will remain shielded for years to come.”Gareth Stace, director-general of UK Steel
The steel industry welcomed the announcement, praising ministers’ ‘determination and purpose’. “The government’s interventions will guard against anticipated surges in imports from trade diverted away from the US and EU markets that will remain shielded for years to come,” said Gareth Stace, director-general of trade body UK Steel. “Such surges would have risked jobs, investment and our ability to transition to net zero.”
However, the move is likely to keep the price of steel higher than it otherwise would be. The government admitted that it had received evidence from ‘downstream users of…steel products’ that there were ‘severe problems’ with supply and increased costs because of the existing tariffs. The Confederation of British Metalforming said its 200-plus members had been ‘severely impacted’ by the tariffs, arguing that domestic producers were ‘ill-equipped’ to meet demand.
Another potential problem is that some countries such as Turkey, India and South Korea could retaliate by slapping tariffs on UK exports — for example cars or whisky. Brazil and China are among the countries that have questioned the legality of the UK extending the measures.
Source: The Financial Times