HRC trade case marked a shift in lobbying dynamics: EC

Julian Verden from Stemcor

The recent investigation into imports of hot rolled coil from Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Iran and Serbia was the first to receive substantial input from traders, according to the European Commission.

Speaking at the EUROMETAL International Steel Trade Day event in Belgium, Aleksandra Kozlowska, policy officer at the European Commission, said the response to the investigation was “huge” with trade associations, traders and manufacturers providing more of a counterweight against producer lobbying than had previously been seen.

“We take a very balanced approach, but it’s true that in the past the mills had more weight because the traders were not vocal… This was the first case I saw that you were so active. We took it on board,” Kozlowska said.

The case developed unusually with Brazilian and Russian HRC made subject to registration in January only for the EC to later find there were no provisional duties required. A later proposition to impose a Minimum Import Duty was also scrapped following feedback before a fixed tariff per metric ton was agreed.

Stemcor’s Julian Verden, who was heavily involved with a consortium lobbying on behalf of traders, end users and independent distributors, told the audience in Ghent he was in favor of some protection as long as the European industry remains efficient. “We should not make the EU industry inefficient and dependent on subsidies whether that is through direct subsidies or higher prices for consumers.”

Simone Jordan, chairwoman of trade association ISTA, said the group was disappointed the MIP was not enforced as a fixed duty is likely to rule out all of the mills involved in the case except Severstal, which received a duty of €17.60/mt, significantly below the €56.70/mt average.

Peter Brennan, S&P Global