European Commission announces import quotas on steel imports from UK

The European Commission has announced safeguard measures with a tariff-rate quota on steel imports from the UK into the EU from Jan. 1, 2021, the EC said in a notice published Oct. 30.

The announcement comes as the UK will cease to be part of the EU Customs Union from 2021, while uncertainty continues to hang over a trade deal between the two parties.

Trade body UK Steel and trade union Community said in a joint statement Oct. 30 that the announcement would provide “reassurance” to customers from UK companies and the UK steel industry. “Without this UK specific allocation of steel export tariff-free quota, the UK sector could have faced an GBP80 million bill, from EU Steel Safeguard tariffs in the first half of next year,” the statement said.

Once a quota volume has been filled, a 25% duty applies, in line with material imported from other countries outside the EU. The quotas will mostly affect UK steel producers Tata Steel, Liberty, Celsa UK and British Steel.

The EU is the UK’s biggest export market and the trade union Community said more work was needed to ensure seamless trade. “These quotas are necessary but not sufficient to secure our future,” Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of Community, said. “As a top priority steelworkers expect [the UK] Government to deliver on promises that UK steel producers will be front of the queue for taxpayer-funded contracts as we move forward and rebuild our economy.”

EU importers will be able to source 114,460 mt of HRC from the UK tariff-free in the first quota period in 2021, which is set for Jan. 1 to March 31. The second quota period ends June 30, 2021.

The quota volume for cold-rolled material has been set at 76,842 mt in the first period, while the metallic coated sheets levels for categories 4a and 4b — used primarily in the automotive industry — have been set to 31,075 mt each. The quota for merchant bars and sections has been set at 86,672 mt.

Other changes announced by the EU to the safeguard measures include the exclusion from safeguards for imports from the UAE for hollow sections and (non-large) welded pipes, Turkey for large welded tubes and China for seamless stainless tubes and pipes.

The import quota for Turkish rebar imports has been lowered to 58,826 mt from 75,123 mt.

The EU will consider feedback on the announced changes within five working days of the announcement.

The UK government also recently announced import quotas for EU material imported to the UK, causing some concern for UK buyers.

A UK trader said the quotas allocated to UK buyers by the UK government were not sufficient for HRC, while another source said quotas for metallic coated sheets would be too small.

— Laura Varriale, Amanda Flint