Commenting on President Trump’s signing of the Presidential Proclamation on steel and aluminium tariffs, Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director, said:
“The UK steel sector has kept its fingers crossed for the last week, hoping that the official introduction of tariffs on steel would ultimately be more targeted and focussed.
“Regrettably today’s announcement confirms our fears that the default position is for tariffs to apply across the board outside of NAFTA. Such tariffs would have a profound and detrimental impact on the UK steel sector, which exported some 350,000 tonnes of products to the US in 2017, over 7% of its total exports. The UK sector is in the midst of a fragile recovery following years of considerable turmoil, it would be utterly devastating if this were to be undermined.
“Imposing such measures on US allies in the name of national security is difficult to comprehend. It is clear the underlying motivation is instead one of economic protectionism for US producers, in response to a global issue of overcapacity in the steel sector.
“We of course share many of the concerns of US steel producers in this regard, but as we have always maintained, the only long term solution to this problem is continued multilateral discussions amongst likeminded trading nations. Such discussions are due to continue between the EU, US and Japan this weekend in Brussels.
“It is of course promising to note that flexibility may be provided by the US administration to grant national exemptions on national security grounds and it is vital that the EU and UK authorities now do all they can to deliver this.
“However, even if the EU is ultimately able to gain an exemption it is still essential the EU Commission takes swift action to combat the indirect effects of these tariffs. We must ensure our market is not now destabilised by millions of tonnes of steel diverted away from the US to the EU. We trust and hope that the UK Government will support such measures in due course.”
Responding to the news that the UK will not be initially exempt from new tariffs on US steel imports, Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, the steelworkers’ union said:
“This news is disappointing, but sadly not surprising. Donald Trump’s short-sighted strategy will put jobs at risk on both sides of the Atlantic. Instead of attacking its allies like this, the USA should be working in partnership with the UK, the EU and others to jointly tackle the problems of global overcapacity.
“Thousands of people have supported Community and UK Steel’s campaign in the past few days. It is now more important than ever that Theresa May and Liam Fox use every bit of influence they have left in America to protect the jobs of British steelworkers.
“The steel crisis cost our industry thousands of jobs and the last thing we need now is a global trade war. The UK government must work with other EU nations to ensure we do not suffer the global consequences of Donald Trump’s actions.
“Community, the steelworker’s union, will continue to lead the campaign to secure the future of our industry. In the coming days and weeks we will continue discussions with politicians and steelmakers around the world to assess how best we can defend steelworker’s jobs.”
About UK Steel: UK Steel, a division of EEF, is the trade association for the UK steel industry. It represents all the country’s steelmakers and a large number of downstream steel processors.
About Community: Community is the steelworkers’ trade union, representing thousands of workers across all the major UK steel companies. Community’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign has engaged steelworkers and the public in the fight to secure the long term future of UK steelmaking.