Italy offers new procedure to avoid exhaustion of EU steel import quotas

The Italian government is offering a new mechanism to allow for the more efficient use of EU safeguards, potentially avoiding quota exhaustion and allowing importers to avoid having to pay additional duties, Fastmarkets understands.
Under the new procedure, importers of steel will be able to partially clear cargoes or withdraw from the customs clearance completely if they are likely to exceed the current EU quota.

The EU safeguard measures offer country-specific and global quotas for certain steel products and were first introduced in 2018. Quota allowances are given for each quarter, with any material imported in addition to the quota allowance subject to a 25% import duty.

But on March 28, Italy’s customs agency Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) published a notice, suggesting that steel buyers can pull back from import operations to avoid exceeding the safeguard quota.

The move follows “numerous requests” of trade associations, Fastmarkets understands.

“Custom clearing steel at the end of the quarter, when quotas for some products and origins gradually get filled, has always been a bit like gambling – with a risk of having to pay the 25% duty,” a trader source in Italy told Fastmarkets.

“The new procedure can help us to use quotas more efficiently,” the source added.

Buyers will now have more flexibility and will be offered several options for clearing imported steel cargoes through customs.

Buyers of imported steel will now be able to withdraw from clearing purchased goods through customs when the quotas are close to exhaustion, according to the ADM document.

Or they might only clear part of a cargo with customs and transfer any excess volumes to the next quarter by keeping the goods in the port.

If material is subsequently required urgently, buyers will be able to proceed with customs clearance and the possibility of facing import duties.

“This [new procedure] is not a new regulation, it is, rather, an interpretation of safeguards use and just [provides another] an option for the buyers,” a second trader in Italy said.

Market participants told Fastmarkets the new mechanism will be particularly useful toward the end of any quota period, when allowances are close to being filled and when clearing import bookings gets increasingly risky – in terms of having to then pay the 25% import duty if the quota is exceeded.

“The new procedure is not very useful at the beginning of the reporting period, but at the end [of the quarter], when few volumes are left, it will help buyers to clear steel imports risk-free,” a buyer in Italy said.

“So, when the quota becomes critical – ie, more than 80-90% used – instead of waiting for the new period, buyers can partially customs clear their cargoes and use quotas more efficiently,” he added.

Another buyer told Fastmarkets: “Buyers can hold goods at ports without customs clearance and no one will know how much goods are sitting at customs.”

The new procedure came into effect on April 1.

So far, the new procedure only applies in Italy, but some market participants said the mechanism could eventually be extended across the EU.

Italy is one of the largest steel importers in the world. In 2023, it imported around 6.5 million tonnes of steel from outside EU, according to European steel association Eurofer.

Vlada Novokreshchenova in Dnipro has contributed to this report

Published by: Julia Bolotova