EC review may mean stronger safeguards against SE Asia steel imports, not early end

Updated on: 06/12/2022

The European Commission is unlikely to terminate the safeguard measures in force on steel product imports from Southeast Asian countries a year earlier than scheduled, European market sources told Fastmarkets on Friday December 2.

On the contrary, restrictions could be strengthened against certain Southeast Asian nations, following an announcement by the Commission that it will conduct a review of the safeguards.

The review was scheduled to be concluded no later than June 30, 2023, which would be the end of the current safeguard year. In the review, the Commission will consider the possibility of terminating the safeguard measures imposed on 26 steel product categories one year early.

It was also planning to update the list of developing countries that are exempt from the measures, according to a notice published in the EU Official Journal.

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During the review, the Commisison will decide whether the safeguard measures should be terminated by June 30, 2023, one year earlier than the current planned expiry date. But market sources considered that option unlikely.

“European trade protectionism is on the rise, [while] the [steel] market is weak and oversupplied. I don’t see any reason why the Commission would terminate safeguard measures early. In fact, we expect [there to be] new anti-dumping cases,” a market source in Northern Europe told Fastmarkets.

Regarding countries that are exempt, no safeguard measure can be applied to a product originating in a developing country member of the World Trade Organization as long as that country’s share of the union’s total imports of the specific product does not exceed 3%.

Market sources have suggested that Vietnam could be added to the list of developing countries to which the safeguard measure are applied, notably for hot-rolled coil.

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During the first nine months of 2022, Vietnam exported 335,834 tonnes of HRC to the EU, which represented 5.2% of total HRC imports into the bloc during that period, according to statistics from regional steel industry association Eurofer.

During the entire year of 2021, Vietnam exported 399,403 tonnes of HRC to the EU, according to Eurofer’s data.

In the latest safeguards review, Vietnam was included in the list of developing countries to which the safeguard measures were applied for imports of hot-dipped galvanized coil products.

Several sources have also suggested that the Commission might add individual quotas for some other Southeast Asian suppliers, in light of the significant increase in HRC deliveries from that region to the EU so far in 2022.

With traditional volumes of HRC from Ukraine and Russia missing from the market, due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, European buyers have started to import more steel from Southeast Asia recently, Eurofer statistics showed.

For example, hot-rolled flat steel imports from Japan to the EU amounted to 785,329 tonnes in January-September 2022, compared with 591,355 tonnes during the entire year of 2021. Deliveries from Vietnam, Taiwan and India have also increased in 2022.

Currently, Turkey, India, South Korea and Serbia have individual quotas for HRC imports into the EU.

Russia used to have an individual quota, but imports of Russia-origin finished steel products were banned in the EU in spring this year as a response to the country’s military aggression against Ukraine.


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