Steel industry puts pressure on trade remedy boss over tariffs and quotas
EXCLUSIVE: Leaders in £ 2.1bn sector urged new independent body to support UK manufacturing
Steelworkers lobbied a new trade body to back British products against cheap foreign imports.
The government has launched the Trade Remedies Authority as an independent, independent body to deal with complaints from UK businesses.
It “will help defend the UK’s economic interests against unfair international trade practices,” according to the Department for International Trade.
One of its first steps will be to decide whether to accept a recommendation to ease measures to protect UK steelmakers.
UK Steel Managing Director Gareth Stace said: “In the short term, the TRA will find itself making its most important decision probably this decade – the decision on whether to maintain steel guarantees in the UK.
“Here we will see if the assurances that the UK’s trade defenses are not weakened will hold true.
“The preliminary ruling was extremely worrying and threatens to cause enormous damage to the UK steel industry.
“I urge TRA to think again and take its first major decision which protects UK industry, instead of harming it.”
The Mirror revealed last month how a 107-page report to ministers recommended cutting half of all imported steel products by the end of June.
Protections were introduced by Brussels in 2018 when the UK was part of EU trade rules, in retaliation for Donald Trump’s White House imposition of tariffs on steel imports.
EU measures continued in Britain until January, when the Brexit transition ended.
The UK regime sets duty-free quotas for a range of steel products based on 2015-2017 import levels.
Only when fulfilled are tariffs applied to any additional imports over a period of three months.
The measures have been extended until this month, but the UK’s Trade Remedy Investigations Directorate has recommended they be relaxed.
A spokesperson for the Community Steelworkers Union said: “Right off the bat, TRA has a huge decision to make – do they uphold the disastrous decision to cut our steel guarantees or reconsider based on the evidence?
“Stakeholders across the sector provided detailed and technical responses to the preliminary decision and these should be duly taken into account.
“The point is, removing these crucial steel guarantees, which protect us from the floods of cheap foreign imports, will threaten jobs and jeopardize the future of our industry.
“If the TRA is wrong, it will mean that our post-Brexit trade defense system is not fit for purpose.”
Trade Remedies Authority chief executive Oliver Griffiths said its launch was “an important moment for UK trade policy”.
He added: “The TRA will be dedicated to defending UK economic interests against unfair international trade practices, providing the government with independent, evidence-based recommendations. “
UK Trade Secretary Ranil Jayawardena said: ‘Britain’s new independent trade remedy system will help protect important UK industries such as steelmakers and ceramic producers from global trade practices harmful.
Aldershot News and Mail)
“The TRA will help create a level playing field for UK businesses so that they can compete with foreign producers, protecting them from unfair trade practices and unanticipated increases in imports.”
Britain’s £ 2.1 billion steel industry directly employs 33,700 workers, with another 42,000 jobs in the supply chain, according to UK Steel.
Salaries in the sector are 33% higher than the national average – and 45% higher in Wales and Yorkshire and Humber where the sector is concentrated.
The Mirror has been campaigning for Save Our Steel since the industry was hit by factory closures and thousands of layoffs in 2015.