Switzerland intervenes with Brussels in EU duties case

A group from Switzerland has sought dialogue with the European Commission to reach a decision over safeguard duties imposed by the EC on non-EU steel imports. The party is concerned that Switzerland is being treated in the same way as other third countries and consider this to be contrary to the arrangements of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) arrangement.

The meeting took place on Monday in Brussels as an extraordinary meeting of the ‘Mixed Working Group of the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Switzerland from 1972’. The Swiss side is asking for the measures to be implemented in a way that it does not impair trade between Switzerland and its neighbours.

The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) says that 95% of Switzerland’s steel exports go to the EU, while 98% of the country’s steel imports come from within the Union. The safeguard measures will be further discussed at the next ordinary meeting of the Free Trade Agreement group on 17 November.

Switzerland’s largest mill, especially with regard to exports, is Swiss Steel and its associated bright bar unit SteelTec. There is also Stahl Gerlafingen, producing rebar and merchant bar, arguably with a lower export share.

“The engineering steels made in Emmenbrücke would be affected, definitely,” a Swiss Steel spokeswoman tells Kallanish. She criticises the fact that the EU measures in their current form treats Switzerland the same way as third countries such as Russia or China, “… which now divert their import flows, which we don’t do,” she notes. Also, she argues that Swiss imports have not risen much in the period 2013-2017, which is taken as a basis for calculation of the EU’s import quotas.

She indicates the peculiar position of the Schmolz+Bickenbach group which operates in both Switzerland and the EU and highlights a paradox arising from the situation. “Like this, if we send steel from Emmenbrücke to Düsseldorf for further processing, we would be charged on our own products.”