EC initiates review into steel import safeguards; assesses S.232 changes

The European Commission Dec. 17 has formally initiated a periodic review into its steel import safeguard measures, which will also assess how changes to be introduced Jan. 1 to the US Section 232 import tariffs may affect steel trade flows, the EC said in a document published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

According to Yuriy Rudyuk, the Brussels-based partner at law firm Van Bael & Bellis, the EC review has been brought forward from the initially expected February or March 2022.

The EC said in its Dec.17 document that respondents will have until Jan. 10, 2022, to submit opinions both on the existing safeguard measures and the Section 232 changes.

The review will cover 26 product categories, including hot-rolled sheets and strips, cold rolled sheets, metallic coated sheets, tin mill products, stainless hot and cold rolled sheets and strips, merchant bars, light and hollow sections, rebars, wire rod, railway material, and seamless and welded tubes.

The EC will analyze the evolution and patterns of the use of tariff-rate quotas to determine whether any adjustment resulting from changed circumstances may be warranted in the Union interest, for instance, due to the occurrence of so-called “crowding out” of access to residual TRQs in the last quarter of a period.

The EC had originally committed to concluding a functioning review investigation of the safeguard measure by June 30, 2022. The bringing forward is understood to be related to the changes to the US’ Section 232 tariffs.

The EC imposed definitive safeguard measures on imports of certain steel products Jan. 31, 2019, to help curb trade deviation arising as a result of the US’s imposition in March 2018 of Section 232 25% import tariffs on steel products from many nations. The EC safeguard measures were prolonged from July 2021.

The Section 232 tariffs will meanwhile be removed on imports from the EU by the US Jan. 1, 2022, as part of a new bilateral deal between the two parties, which will also involve the EU’s suspension of additional duties imposed on its imports of certain US goods.

The EU safeguards review now to take place will seek to update the list of developing World Trade Organization member countries excluded from the scope of the measures based on their most recent level of imports. According to an EU regulation from 2015, no safeguard measure may be applied to a product originating in a developing country member of the WTO as long as that country’s share of Union imports of the product concerned does not exceed 3%.

The commission will also assess, based on the evidence submitted by interested parties, whether any increase to the level of liberalization currently applicable in the safeguards measures, e.g. 3 % annually, is justified, it said.

— Diana Kinch