The changes published by the Commission today (in an Implementing Regulation) fully take account of the special circumstances prevailing in the market due to the coronavirus crisis as well as expected developments. They will ensure that the gradual resumption of activity and return to normality takes place in an orderly manner. The adjustments made in managing the quotas will be effective in deterring potentially harmful stockpiling behaviour by any foreign exporters that may try to sell very high amounts of steel in the EU market in an opportunistic manner to the detriment of the EU steel industry.
Commissioner for Trade Phil Hogan said: “With this package in place, we can effectively save thousands of jobs in the EU steel industry from a very difficult situation that could arise due to the current crisis. In the difficult circumstances that we witness, the Commission must be acting decisively, in full respect of the rules, and that is exactly what we are doing. We also received very strong support from Member States for these measures that, I am convinced, will bring about substantive benefits for EU producers. Of course, our action will not stop just here. The close monitoring of the market must continue and we will not hesitate to put forward further adjustments if that’s what the evolving situation will require.”
The adjustments strike an appropriate balance between the legitimate interests of all the interested parties within the EU. They can shield the EU steel industry from the eventual effects of trade diversion in a way that is most adapted to the current circumstances, while ensuring sufficient supply for the steel-using industries in Europe. Since the launch of the review in February 2020, the Commission has considered 300 submissions received from stakeholders, consulted EU Member States and received their wide support on the proposed changes.
More specifically, the main changes are the following:
- Country-specific quotas will be made available in quarterly and not annual allotments. This will help ensure a more stable flow of imports at this stage and will minimise the risk of short-term import surges.
- A new country-specific quota will be introduced for hot-rolled flat (category 1) steel.
- Access to the residual quota for countries that have previously exhausted their country-specific quota will be only permitted to the extent necessary to respond to demand. This will help ensure equitable access to the EU market for smaller exporting countries.
- The list of developing countries excluded from the measures is now updated on the basis of the most recent stable statistical data (2019).
The measures remain fully in line with the EU’s international commitments, and as provided for by the applicable WTO rules, the affected non-EU countries were consulted earlier this month.
The Commission will continue to carefully monitor the steel market and import flows to ensure that the measures remain effective. If necessary, another review may still be considered in the course of the remaining year of measures.
As part of its efforts to restore a level playing field for European steel producers, the EU is also currently co-chairing the Global Forum on Steel Excess Capacity and will work for robust conclusions and recommendations in this regard to be submitted to the G20 leaders in November.
The Commission introduced the initial safeguard measures on steel imports in July 2018. The measures aim to prevent economic damage for European steel producers, given the risk of import increases related to the introduction of trade restrictions by the US on steel and aluminum products. The Commission confirmed the initial temporary measures in early 2019 for a period until end of June 2021. The first review taking account of the market evolution was concluded in September 2019. The adjustments announced today result from the second review initiated in February 2020.