EC safeguards limited damage from 2018 import boom: Unesid

Spain’s steel industry group Unesid said European safeguards aided in limiting damage amid a flood of imports during 2018, caused by the implementation of US tariffs.

“While the safeguards did not limit the amount of imports, they were intended to help avoid possible damage caused by their increase during unexpected circumstances,” the group said.

Spanish imports of steel jumped 9% to a 10-year high of 10.8 million mt in 2018 while exports from Spain fell 12% year on year to 8.5 million mt, Unesid said.

Unesid had lobbied the European Union last year to impose measures to buffer the region from the expected effect of the US Section 232 steel tariffs. During the second half of last year some Spanish steel companies had to trim production and adjust inventories as a result.

But the situation has settled in 2019, according to Spain’s Acerinox. The company said the EC safeguards have already impacted the current quarter, with estimated import volume already down 30% in January. Inventories were seen at normal levels at the end of February with the company expecting US inventories to reach normalcy by the end of Q1.

Acerinox said it expected full recovery of the market during Q2, while still recouping margins in Q1.

The largest jump in 2018 Spanish import volume came from Turkey, which shipped 1.0 million mt to the country, an increase of 52% over 2017, and from Taiwan – with a 79% increase in volume to 466,000 mt.

Overall volume was dominated by France (up 0.1% to 2.1 million mt), Italy (up 0.4% to 1.2 million mt) and Germany, (up 0.6% to 1.1 million mt).

By product type, 68% of the volume was in flat products, 12% in long products and 20% tubes and bars.

— Gianluca Baratti