EU Said to Plan Faster Decision Making on Steel-Import Tariffs

  • China's export power to prompt move aiding Europe's industry
  • Faster dumping probes would bring EU closer to U.S. practice

The European Union plans to accelerate decisions on steel-import tariffs amid concern that Chinese and other global competitors pose a threat to European producers, according to two EU officials.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, intends to reduce the time taken to carry out inquiries into alleged below-cost -- or “dumped” -- imports of steel, the officials said on Monday on the condition of anonymity. It will disclose the plan in a paper on the steel industry to be released on Wednesday in Brussels.

Normally, after opening a dumping investigation, the commission decides within nine months whether to introduce provisional anti-dumping duties and within 15 months whether to apply “definitive” five-year levies. On Feb. 29, industry ministers from the 28-nation EU urged the commission to shorten steel-dumping probes by at least two months “whenever feasible.”

The commission will be unable to shave more than a month off the time needed for decisions on provisional anti-dumping duties, one of the people said. That’s because of the consultations required with EU governments, the languages involved and the staff available, according to the person. Still, an eight-month time frame for provisional EU anti-dumping levies on steel would bring Europe closer to the U.S. period of about six months.

Provisional Duties

Steel has become a flash point in EU-China trade relations as Chinese producers challenge European manufacturers such as ArcelorMittal and ThyssenKrupp AG by shipping excess supply to Europe. China, which accounts for about half of global steel production and posted its slowest economic growth in more than two decades in 2015, in January pledged steel-capacity cuts.

On Feb. 15, EU industries led by the steel sector mobilized thousands of people for a march in Brussels to warn about job losses from Chinese competition. The commission has sought to reassure European manufacturers that it won’t shy away from slapping tariffs on imports from China when they are found to be dumped.

Three days before the demonstration in Brussels, the commission imposed provisional anti-dumping duties on non-stainless steels from China and threatened levies on three other types of Chinese steel products by opening new dumping probes.

In addition to pledging to accelerate steel-dumping investigations, the commission on Wednesday will seek to remove a cap it applies when imposing anti-dumping duties. A change to this “lesser-duty” rule would need the approval of EU national governments and the European Parliament -- a process than can take months or years.

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