Eurofer throttles hopes for US trade policy liberalisation

European steel association Eurofer director general Axel Eggert warns against expectations for a liberalisation in external trade under new US President Joe Biden.

On the one hand, Biden has long been known as a supporter of trade liberalisation, Eggert notes. As vice president he championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and as a senator he voted for NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO. This previous attitude does not seem to translate into Biden’s presidency, Eggert finds. “Noticeable by its absence is any change to the aggressive Trumpian trade policy in [Biden’s] initial package of measures,” he writes in a note to members.  

Among other things, there has been no move so far to undo Section 232 tariffs. “Indeed, on his fourth day in office, President Biden signed an executive order further strengthening ‘Buy American’ regulations,” Eggert observes. “For now, at least, it would seem that the motivation – if not the rhetoric – behind the ‘America First’ strategy of the previous administration has not changed.”

Eggert calls on EU leaders to take note and defend the bloc’s interests. “Other regions are willing to take advantage of Europe’s promotion of ‘free’ trade without sharing its matching commitment to ‘fair’,” he states in the note seen by Kallanish.
For steel, this means extending existing steel safeguards, and swiftly deploying the full extent of available remedial trade defences when there are grounds to do so. Also, the EU ought to take “…pro-competitive” steps to improve raw materials flows – such as by preventing scrap exports, Eggert says. Thirdly, the EU should ensure that carbon leakage measures remain firmly in place to encourage other regions to follow Europe’s decarbonisation lead.