Steel protectionism pros and cons: a distributor comments

Protectionism might protect the domestic steel industry in any country, but it remains an obstacle to those industries selling their products outside that country, says Lex Coenen of Dutch service centre Noviostaal.

In his monthly ‘Staaljournaal’, Coenen says that trade instruments such as antidumping duties lead to rising domestic prices, as is happening now [… in many markets]. While this is good news for steel mills, it also means that prices clearly rise downstream. For fabricators and manufacturers exporting a good deal of their output, this means an increase in prices for their overseas customers. This leads to exporters becoming less competitive in the global market.

Referring to US president Donald Trump’s ‘buy American’ logic, Coenen recalls that the US was also economically isolated sixty to seventy years ago. This led to laziness in investing, so that after a while the country’s steel mills fell behind the more modern mills in Europe and Japan.

From another Dutch service centre, Kallanish hears about the case of an importer of Dutch origin in the US, who for years has been buying material in the Netherlands.  This is specifically hot-rolled strip, profiled and edged for purposes similar to sheet piling. “I wonder how this can be cheaper when ordered in the Netherlands, then shipped at [… a cost of] another €2,000 ($2,147) per container, but maybe it works,” a manager at the facility tells Kallanish. It remains to be seen if further US protectionism puts an end to that partnership.