EU Takes Action to Shield Itself from US Tariffs

The European Union has introduced “provisional safeguard measures” concerning imports of a number of steel products as a response to the U.S. steel tariffs.

Illustration. Image Courtesy: Pixabay under CC0 Creative Commons license

The European Commission said on Wednesday that provisional measures concern 23 steel product categories and will take the form of a tariff rate quota. For each of the 23 categories, tariffs of 25% will only be imposed once imports exceed the average of imports over the last three years.

Traditional imports of steel products will not be affected, the commission added.

The measures target diversion of steel from other countries to the EU, in particular the steel which was intended for the U.S., as a result of the Trump Administration’s tariffs.

 “The US tariffs on steel products are causing trade diversion, which may result in serious harm to EU steelmakers and workers in this industry. We are left with no other choice than to introduce provisional safeguard measures to protect our domestic industry against a surge of imports. These measures nevertheless ensure that the EU market remains open, and will maintain traditional trade flows,” Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said.

The safeguard measures come into effect on July 19 and can remain in place for a maximum of 200 days.

The move is part of an investigation conducted by the EU into potential threat from the new tariffs to its steel and aluminum sectors. The commission is taking comments from all interested parties as it works to reach a final conclusion, at the latest by early 2019.

“If all conditions are met, definitive safeguard measures may be imposed as a result,” the commission said.

In addition, the EU and Japan signed the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement during the 25th EU-Japan summit in Tokyo.

The trade agreement has been described as the biggest ever negotiated by the EU, promising to create an open trade zone covering over 600 million people.

The European shipowners welcomed the signing of the ambitious trade agreement saying it sends a strong message at a time of rising unilateralism and protectionism.

The agreement with Japan will remove the vast majority of customs duties that cost EU companies exporting to Japan EUR 1 billion (USD 1.16 bn) a year and will lead to a substantial increase of the EU exports to Japan.

“It also contains obligations to maintain open and non-discriminatory access to international maritime services such as transport and auxiliary services, as well as access to ports and port services,” ECSA’s Secretary General Martin Dorsman said.

“Shipping needs global trade to exist and global trade cannot exist without an efficient shipping industry. Around 90% of world trade in goods is carried by the international shipping industry and European ship owners control 40% of the world’s merchant fleet and operate shipping services all over the world,” he concluded.

The agreement is now awaiting ratification by the European Parliament and the Japanese Diet following which it could enter into force in 2019.