US tariffs on UK steel lift today but concerns remain over other safeguards

Wed 1 Jun 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

US tariffs on UK steel exports are to be lifted from today under a deal that was agreed in March.

UK steel and aluminium exporters can start exporting tariff-free up to a specified volume for the first time since 2018.

This restores tariff-free trade of UK steel and aluminium to the US for set quotas, the Express reports. Any exports to the US over the allowed amount will continue to face the tax measures.

The resolution, signed by Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan, will bring new business opportunities for companies across the supply chain which employs 80,000 people, the government said.

Mutual benefits

Meanwhile, the UK will end its rebalancing measures on a wide variety of US products including whiskey, Levi’s jeans and Harley Davidson motorcycles.

However, according to Politico, the sector fears the deal’s benefits could be “undermined” if the government ‘waters down’ tariffs on certain products that were carried over from the EU after Brexit and which Britain decided last June to maintain for 12 months.

Gareth Stace, director-general of UK Steel, said a failure to maintain the measures in full would “unilaterally open up the UK to import surges and trade diversion from shielded markets elsewhere, causing an estimated £150 million/year in damages”.

Safeguards expiring

As previously covered in the IOE&IT's Daily Update, the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) recommended the UK revoke nine of the 19 EU steel safeguard measures after Brexit and extend the rest for another three years.

However, then-trade secretary Liz Truss ignored the advice and extended another five of the safeguards for 12 months, which means her successor has until 30 June to decide whether to maintain or tinker with the safeguard.

UK Steel wants the current measures to be extended until 2024, arguing the factors that led to the introduction of the measure, including global overcapacity and state subsidies, still exist.

Support decarbonisation

The Times reports that steelmaking in Britain “could be at risk unless the government provides more support for the industry to adopt green technologies”.

MPs on the environmental audit committee have heard evidence that government initiatives to support decarbonisation “lacked ambition compared with other countries”.

The committee also received evidence that due to “the uncertainty surrounding the abundance and affordability of hydrogen supplies” Tata Steel had been reluctant to invest in hydrogen-based technologies.

'Clean tech'

Philip Dunne MP, chairman of the committee, said: “The steel sector has the opportunity to move away from a heavy emitter towards championing clean tech. To make this a reality the government must … invest properly in research and development so that industry can adopt alternative methods to manufacturing steel that is not such a carbon-intensive process.”

Economies are increasingly looking to ‘green steel’ with the US and EU announcing a plan to cut emissions, last year.

This aims to replace tariffs with “the world’s first carbon-based sectoral arrangement,” over the next two years.