Polish distributors fear EU safeguard impact on competitiveness

EU safeguard duties are required to protect against steel diverted by Section 232 and maintain market stability, although there are concerns rising protectionism could limit buyers’ competitiveness. This was the opinion voiced by the steel distributors’ panel at the European Economic Congress in Katowice.

Although the effect of US tariffs on EU exports is limited, Turkey, which sits on the EU’s doorstep, may be levied with US tariffs and will need to find alternative markets for its huge long products output. This means it is likely the EU will implement trade measures, Jerzy Bernhard, chief of Polish distributor Stalprofil, said during Wednesday’s panel attended by Kallanish.

Jakub Grobarczyk, board member at Polish service centre Serwistal, however, warned that increasing protectionism may hurt some steel companies. While duties are justified for steelmakers, “… on the other hand they will lead to largely restricted accessibility,” which “… could impact the competitiveness of our products and the final products of our customers.” The approach to trade defence must therefore be “… rational.”

This view was immediately countered by Tomasz Plaskura, ArcelorMittal Europe – flat products business division east chief marketing officer. “We are convinced that we can compete with every importer in terms of cost, quality and customer service, as long as the competition is fair,” he observed.

“Safeguard measures are protectionist barriers implemented to prevent a sharp rise in imports, which means the import we see today will most probably remain on the same level,” Plaskura continued. EU steel imports have increased further in the first quarter of 2018, “…so it’s hard to speak about difficulties in access to material,” he added. Despite the EU’s trade defence measures so far, the region remains one of the most open to imports, the official added.