EU safeguards hurt Swiss mills

Swiss steelmakers’ exports to neighbouring countries are facing new limitations after the EU tightened safeguard restrictions.

Although sitting centrally in Europe and surrounded by EU countries, the Alpine country itself is not a member of the Union. It is therefore subject to the same restrictions as other third countries such as Turkey and Belarus.

“Switzerland is being treated like any other third country, although production costs here are actually higher,” Stahl Gerlafingen managing director Alain Creteur bemoans in an interview with Solothurner Zeitung. “And the [EU] steel industry is even demanding stricter regulations.”

He cites the example of sections, for which the EU has imposed a limit of 16,000 tonnes for imports from Switzerland. Stahl Gerlafingen has an annual production capacity for sections of 300,000 tonnes, of which three quarters used to be for export. “It’s a disaster,” Creteur exclaims.

Meanwhile, Schmolz+Bickenbach’s Swiss Steel seems to be hurting less from the EU restrictions, it tells Kallanish upon request. Its greatest pain is the drop in demand for SBQ steel from the ailing automotive industry. This has been worsening since the Covid-19 lockdown of assembly lines at carmakers.

“With demand as low as it is, the stricter safeguards don’t mean additional pain,” an S+B spokeswoman says. Also, with its diverse locations in EU countries like France and Germany, S+B group can easily handle deliveries within the EU from units other than Swiss Steel.