China Faces More EU Tariffs on Steel Amid Overcapacity Worry

  • Europe imposes duties on hot-rolled coil and heavy plates
  • Levies are part of a flurry of steel-trade protection moves

The European Union imposed tariffs as high as 73.7 percent on two types of steel from China in a bid to curb competition for EU producers including ArcelorMittal and ThyssenKrupp AG, highlighting political concerns in Europe about the threat posed by Chinese metal manufacturers.

The duties on hot-rolled coil and heavy plates punish Chinese exporters such as Wuhan Iron & Steel Co., Angang Steel Co. and Hebei Iron & Steel Co. for allegedly selling the goods in the EU below cost, a practice known as dumping.

Hot-rolled coil is a bread-and-butter product used in everything from cars to construction. Heavy plates are used in shipbuilding, oil and natural-gas pipelines, bridges and buildings. The EU market for hot-rolled coil alone is worth about 10 billion euros ($11.1 billion).

EU producers that also include Tata Steel U.K. Ltd. face the “imminent threat of material injury” as a result of dumped imports of hot-rolled coil from China and have already suffered such harm from dumped shipments to Europe of Chinese heavy plates, the European Commission, the 28-nation bloc’s executive arm in Brussels, said on Friday in the Official Journal. The duties, which will take effect on Saturday, are for six months and may be prolonged for five years.

Steel Index

The Bloomberg European Steel Index advanced 2.5 percent to the highest since Aug. 9 after the EU announcement. ArcelorMittal rose as much as 4.2 percent to the highest since Aug. 19.

Steel has become a renewed source of tension in EU-China trade relations as Chinese producers challenge European manufacturers by shipping surplus supply to Europe. China, which accounts for about half of global steel production, in January pledged steel-capacity cuts that the EU has said will be inadequate to re-balance the market.

With EU anti-dumping protection already in force against China on goods ranging from stainless steel and electrical steel to wire rod and steel wires, the new measures reflect Europe’s political commitment to aiding European producers after they shed at least 7,000 jobs over the past year and more than 85,000 posts since 2008. The commission this year has triggered a system for monitoring steel imports from around the world, vowed to open more steel-dumping cases if necessary and pledged to accelerate decisions on anti-dumping duties.

The commission faced a Nov. 13 deadline under EU trade-investigation rules to impose any six-month levies on Chinese hot-rolled coil and heavy plates.

‘Positively Surprised’

“We are positively surprised by the EC’s decision to announce both of these cases over a month ahead of schedule, perhaps reflecting an increased willingness by the EU to respond to persistent import pressures on the domestic steel market,” Seth Rosenfeld and Alan Spence, London-based metals analysts at Jefferies International Ltd., said in an e-mailed report.

Chinese exporters increased their combined share of the EU market for hot-rolled coil to 4.3 percent in 2015 from 0.8 percent in 2012, the commission said. Their combined share of the European market for heavy plates grew to 14.4 percent from 4.6 percent over the same period, according to the commission.

The anti-dumping duties on both types of steel from China are the preliminary outcome of inquiries that the commission opened in February. The probes stemmed from dumping complaints by European steel industry group Eurofer on behalf of manufacturers that account for more than 90 percent of the EU’s output of hot-rolled coil and more than a quarter of the bloc’s production of heavy plates.

Depending on the Chinese exporter, the provisional duties on hot-rolled coil range from 13.2 percent to 22.6 percent, while the levies on heavy plates are between 65.1 percent and 73.7 percent.

Wuhan Iron & Steel and Angang Steel each face an 18 percent levy on hot-rolled coil, while Hebei Iron & Steel is subject to a 13.2 percent rate on this product. Wuhan Iron & Steel and Angang Steel both face a 70.6 percent duty on heavy plates. If Hebei Iron & Steel exports heavy plates to the EU, the rate for the company would be the maximum 73.7 percent.

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