Tariffs on steel imports have been extended for a further two years, the government announced in Parliament yesterday (29 June).
Announcing the decision to protect the UK’s £2bn steel sector, which employs 34,000 people, international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan told MPs that a “strategic steel industry is of the utmost importance to the UK”.
“Given the broader national interest significance of this strategic UK industry and the global disruption to energy markets and supply chains the UK currently faces, we have concluded it is in the economic interest of the UK to maintain these safeguards,” she said.
Britain had previously rolled over the EU regime of steel safeguards upon leaving the bloc in 2020, but some of these were due to expire, reports the Telegraph.
According to the BBC controls are currently in place for 15 categories of steel. Controls protecting 10 of those categories have already been extended to 2024 and import limits on five categories were set to expire today (30 June). These have been extended for two years.
MPs in steel producing areas and the trade body UK Steel have welcomed the move, which was also backed by the Labour Party.
Miriam Cates, MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said: “The safeguards will make sure the UK steel industry is protected from market distorting practices like dumping.”
UK Steel, said the measures were “absolutely vital to the long-term health of the steel industry in the UK”.
However, some Tory MPs have said the decision is protectionist and moves away from the party’s free trade roots.
As previously reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update, the move raised fears from government sources of international retaliation.
In an interview with BBC News, IOE&IT director general Marco Forgione said that the move “does have repercussions, because manufacturers who use steel are seeing their prices increase as a result.”
Calls for delay
Trevelyan had cancelled a meeting before the International Trade Committee to make the announcement.
She has been criticised for showing “disrespect” to the Committee, where she was due to give evidence on the Australian trade deal, reports the Independent.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Committee had published a new report criticising the government for allegedly avoiding parliamentary scrutiny on trade deals, particularly the one it has struck with Australia.
The report called for a delay in ratification of the deal and said the Committee needed more time to assess it.
A spokesperson said the trade secretary had been in the process of finalising the decision on the steel safeguard and had to review the final advice before updating Parliament, reports the Standard.
She has apologised and offered an alternative time slot next week.