UK Steel seeks removal of US tariffs in response to US-EU deal

UK Steel is calling on the UK government to “urgently” seek an exemption to US Section 232 tariff measures, following the recent agreement between the EU and US to largely end Trump-era tariffs on US steel imports from the EU.

The agreement, reached Oct. 30, does not cover exports of non-EU member the UK.

“The substantial competitive advantage that this deal provides EU steel producers over UK ones will undoubtedly result in our export orders to the US market being lost to EU exporters until such time as the UK government secures a similar deal,” said Gareth Stace, director general of industry group UK Steel, in a statement. “Without this, EU steel landing at US ports, will almost always be favored over what will be more costly UK metal.”

The tariffs, introduced in 2018 before the UK officially left the EU, reduced UK exports to the US by nearly 50%, Stace said, underscoring that a deal was “sorely needed to repair this damage to our export interests.”

The association said the announcement of the EU-US tariff deal will receive a mixed response from steel companies.

“Whilst it is promising to see the US take steps to open up access to its steel markets again, there is significant concern that UK producers have been left behind in this process and continue to wait for their own deal,” Stace said in the statement.

The UK government said its International Trade Secretary recently held positive discussions with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai in London and it “welcomes the US Administration’s commitment to consult closely on bilateral and multilateral trade issues.”

The UK government was committed to addressing both global steel overcapacity and decarbonization, staying “focused on agreeing a resolution that sees damaging tariffs removed to the benefit of businesses on both sides of the Atlantic,” the government said in a press note.

UK Steel told S&P Global Platts it welcomed the UK government meeting, but was still waiting to see the results.

UK Steel represents all the country’s steelmakers and a large number of downstream steel processors. The UK produces 7 million mt of crude steel a year, around 70% of its annual requirement of around 10.2 million mt.

The UK steel industry makes a GBP 2.1 billion direct contribution to UK GDP and supports a further GBP 2.7billion.

The UK exported 309,442 mt to the US in 2017 before the imposition of Section 232 tariffs, dropping by 40% to 186,641 mt in 2019 based on HM Revenues and Customs data. For 2021, only January-August data is available so far – the UK has exported 179,904 mt, boosted as a result of extraordinarily high prices in the US this year.

— Annalisa Villa