Steel import tariffs extended for two years

Steel import tariffs extended for two years
Steel workerImage source,

Tariffs on steel imports that were due to expire will be retained for a further two years, the government said.

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the plans departed from the UK's "international legal obligations" but was in the "national interest" to protect steel makers.

She added the decision was made due to "global disruptions" to energy markets and supply chains.

British steel producers are under pressure from soaring energy prices.

Steelmaking is a key industry for some parts of the UK, where it employs 34,000 people and turns over £2bn annually.

Without controls the government has warned the supply of steel into the UK could rise substantially, harming local manufacturers.

UK Steel previously said ending the import controls could cause as much as £150m a year in damage.

Speaking at the G7 summit in Germany at the weekend, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said keeping the import controls on foreign steel would protect metal manufacturers.

But there were concerns such a decision could breach international law as the question of extending tariffs on steel imports is seen as potentially breaking World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments.

Ms Trevelyan said the decision "departs from our international legal obligations" of a WTO agreement.

"However, from time to time, issues may arise where the national interest requires action to be taken," she added.

'Cheaper energy needed'

The limits on steel imports were first introduced by the European Union in 2018 in response to tariffs imposed by the Trump administration. The controls were mirrored by the UK after Brexit.

The restrictions, which add a tax to steel imports once a certain quota has been reached, are known as "steel safeguards" because they are designed to protect the domestic market from surges of cheap steel from overseas.

Mr Johnson said: "We need British steel to be provided with much cheaper energy."

The controls are currently in place for 15 categories of steel. While controls protecting 10 of those categories have already been extended to 2024, import limits on five categories were set to expire on 30 June, before the government extended them for two years.

Ms Trevelyan said maintaining tariffs would help defend a strategic industry and that British steel producers could face "serious injury" were the measures not maintained.

"The government is therefore actively engaged with interested parties, including those outside the UK on the future of the UK safeguards and has listened to the concerns raised," she added.

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