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CRU: How Trump's Latest Trade War Moves Will Hit Galvanisers

LONDON, June 13, 2018 /PRNewswire/ --

The recent imposition of a 25% import duty on steel products from Canada, Mexico and the EU has once again put trade disputes centre stage as the USA continues in its quest to 'crack down' on alleged trade abuse.

Following the USA's commerce secretary finding that "steel mill articles are being imported into the United States in such quantities and under such circumstances as to threaten to impair the national security of the United States" this Insight considers the impact Trump's latest tariff extensions will have in real terms.

Counterbalancing measures are being considered by all three on a range of US exports, with the EU having initiated a dispute settlement process via the World Trade Organisation and considering imposing preliminary safeguarding measures on steel imports to protect its markets from an influx of diverted metal from countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Turkey. Canada and Mexico are already embroiled in the lengthy renegotiation of NAFTA, the result of which has been pre-empted by these Section 232 tariffs, in part because the US administration was becoming impatient with the length of time the NAFTA talks were taking. The effect on the steel industry in these countries is already being felt, with some orders being changed or put on hold.

Exemptions or partial exemptions pared back to just four countries

Argentina, Australia, Brazil and South Korea are the only countries still allowed to export steel products to the USA. In the case of South Korea, a quota agreement was quickly reached which limits exports to 70% of its average annual shipments to the USA in the past three years. In terms of galvanised sheet, this means that South Korea is limited to exporting around 280,000t to the USA per year. This is an absolute quota, which cannot be exceeded even if 25% import duty were to be paid on any excess. Absolute quotas are also being applied to imports from Brazil and Argentina. Brazil has a hard quota of 70% of the average of 2015-2017 volumes and Argentina has a quota of 180,000 t/y, covering all steel products. As far as we know, Australia is the only country with a full exemption.

86% of the USA's 2017 imports would now be subject to 25% duty

As the tariffs currently stand, around 86% of the USA's 2017 galvanised sheet imports (3.3Mt of galvanised sheet, which we estimate is equivalent to almost 100,000t of zinc contained) would now be subject to a 25% tariff. Of course, this does not mean that the USA's imports will collapse (as US prices rise, more imports are likely to become competitive even with the 25% duty), but it has bred a great deal of uncertainty for US businesses. Steel mills are generally supportive of the Section 232 tariffs and feel that they finally have an opportunity to compete domestically and in global markets again. However, not all US businesses have welcomed the tariffs as there are concerns that steel price inflation and higher prices to consumers will ultimately harm domestic manufacturers. Even if US galvanised sheet producers can quickly fill the gap in exports, there is a question mark over whether the quality and grade of these products will be suitable for all domestic fabricators.

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