Decision delay triggers speculations over EU safeguard quotas

A delay in the final decision over the permanent safeguard measures for the import of steel products into Europe is triggering much speculation in the market. This happens as the expiry date for the provisional measures in place is approaching, Kallanish learns from sources.

This week Aditya Mittal said during a public event in Paris that the current provisional measures need to be confirmed and improved. As an example of this, he suggested the calculation of quarterly quotas to avoid the risk of seeing imports concentrating in a specific part of the year. European steelmakers’ association Eurofer has often voiced a request to make the quotas country-based.

Suggestions such as these are being considered by the European Commission and sources with knowledge of the situation say that it is likely the requests for country-based and quarterly quotas will be accepted.

It is possible that the EC will differentiate between particular product categories. “We have heard that HRC could be excluded from the country-based rule, to secure that the more basic products are not impacted by further restrictions,” a source comments. “Also, quarterly limits could work only if there is a way to roll over some of the unused volumes.”

A decision on this matter, with the expectation that the safeguard measures would be confirmed for a period of three years, was earlier slated to be made before the end of 2018. As the year comes to a close, some believe that negotiations are still ongoing. “The debate in the European Commission is still tense, but the issue is definitely important and it is very unlikely that the measures will not be confirmed,” a trader comments.

A source at a service centre notes that country-based quotas could create problems related to those countries subject to antidumping measures. “We have heard the volumes of the countries under anti-dumping measures could be grouped into a general section, but this could well make these tonnages impossible to use for importers,” the source comments. “We believe the current measures should not be made more complicated than they already are, maybe we could understand imposing a maximum limit for specific countries for each product in order to secure fair competition in the market.”

A number of sources also confirm that if discussions within the European Commission remain protracted, then the current system could remain in place until a new one is finalised.