By Philip Blenkinsop
BRUSSELS (Reuters) – European Union countries are expected to next week approve a scheme to limit imports of steel into the bloc following U.S. President Donald Trump’s imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminium entering the United States.
The vote on Jan. 16 would put in place an effective cap on steel imports for three years to counter concerns of EU producers that European markets could be flooded by steel products that are no longer being imported into the U.S..
The bloc imposed “safeguard” measures on a provisional basis on imports of 23 steel product types in July, with an expiry date of Feb 4. The quota was set at the average level of imports over the past three years, with a 25 percent tariff applied if the quotas are filled.
The temporary measures won widespread backing from EU member countries, with only two abstaining.
“There is more scepticism than at the provisional stage. Steel users have been affected… but I expect there will be enough countries in favour to push the safeguards through,” one EU diplomat said.
The Commission’s proposal is similar to the provisional measures, although quotas would be set at the average of the last three years plus 5 percent. It has also set limits for major exporting countries. The quotas would apply for three-month periods in order to limit stockpiling and could be increased by 5 percent each year.
European auto manufacturers association ACEA called the measures protectionist and said they would harm its members. It added that steel exports to the United States had only dropped slightly and so little extra steel was being diverted to Europe.
Steel group Eurofer, whose members include world number one ArcelorMittal <MT.AS> and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp <TKAG.DE>, previously welcomed the safeguards.
The main exporters of steel to the EU are China, India, Russia, South Korea, Turkey and Ukraine.
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)