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TRA recommends steel safeguard measure be extended to 2026

The Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) has today (21 February 2024) published initial findings proposing that the UK’s steel safeguard measure – which protects the country’s steel industry from surges in imports be extended for a further two years.

The current measure, which covers 15 categories of steel would expire on 30 June 2024 if it was not extended. If the measure is extended this year, it must end by 30 June 2026. Under World Trade Organisation rules another safeguard measure for these product categories of steel could then not be put in place for another eight years.

Businesses would be able to apply for other trade remedy measures on specific categories of steel products if they felt that the UK industry was being injured by, or was at threat of, dumped or subsidised imports. Interested parties can contact the TRA’s pre-application office to discuss applying for a new anti-dumping or countervailing measure.

Extension review findings

The TRA began an extension review of the safeguard measure in September last year. In conducting its review, the TRA found that imports would be likely to increase if the safeguard measure were to expire. The review also found that it is likely that serious injury would recur to UK producers across all 15 categories of steel if the safeguard measure were to be removed. These conclusions are based on the data provided to the TRA, the overcapacity in the global steel market, the risk of steel being diverted to the UK due to measures in other major markets and the attractiveness of the UK steel market.

Parties that may be affected by the extension review’s initial findings (such as importers or exporters of steel products or UK producers of similar products) now have until 7 March 2024 to respond to the findings set out in the TRA’s Statement of Intended Final Determination (SIFD).

The TRA will then submit its final recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business and Trade who will make a decision based on the TRA’s analysis.

TRA Chief Executive Oliver Griffiths said:

Our interim findings are that the steel safeguard measure should be extended for a final two years to June 2026, after which point they would fall away. This would cover all steel categories currently covered.

Five UK producers engaged with the TRA during its investigation, covering all product categories in the review. Sales of these products account for around 84% of these producers’ £5bn turnover. The producers also employ on average 15,000 staff in the UK and contribute a total of £595m to the UK economy.

This extension has been conducted separately to two recently announced new reviews into Hot Rolled Flat and Coil steel (Category 1 products). The TRA initiated a suspension review and a Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) review in response to applications from Tata Steel UK (TSUK) and Kromat Trading Ltd on 9 February this year. Both reviews respond to TSUK’s recent proposal to close its two blast furnaces in Port Talbot, Wales, as part of TSUK’s decarbonisation plans which include building an electric arc furnace. TSUK’s proposal has seen an increasing demand for imports of Category 1 products into the UK, and these reviews aim to address this demand whilst mitigating the risk of increased cost to importers.

The safeguard extension review’s preliminary recommendation is that the safeguard measure should be extended on Category 1 products. Any suspension of the measure on Category 1 products or adjustment to the quota allocation is separate to this preliminary recommendation and would supersede the outcome of the extension review on Category 1 products, but will not affect the other 14 categories.

Notes to editors:

  • The TRA is the UK body that investigates whether trade remedy measures are needed to counter unfair import practices and unforeseen surges of imports.
  • In 2020, the TRA carried out its first review of the safeguard measure on steel categories that was transitioned from the EU to the UK. The government accepted the TRA’s recommendation to extend the safeguard measure across 10 steel product categories for a further three years, but also provided for a 12-month extension of current protections for five of the 10 product categories recommended for revocation by the TRA. Following a second review in 2022, the Secretary of State then decided to maintain a safeguard on 15 categories of steel for a further two years.
  • Since 2022, two of the 15 categories have been split to ensure the categories better reflect different trade flows – category 12 has become 12A and 12B and category 25 has become 25A and 25B. The TRA therefore investigated the following categories during the extension review: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12A, 12B, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 25A, 25B, and 26.
  • Trade remedy investigations were carried out by the EU Commission on the UK’s behalf until the UK left the EU. A number of EU trade remedy measures of interest to UK producers were carried across into UK law when the UK left the EU and the TRA has been reviewing each one to assess whether they are suitable for UK needs.
  • Safeguard measures are one of three types of trade remedies – along with anti-dumping measures which counter goods being ‘dumped’ into countries at prices below their normal price in their country of origin and countervailing measures against countervailable subsidies – that are allowed under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
  • Safeguard measures are emergency actions responding to increased imports of particular products, which cause serious injury to the importing country’s domestic industry. They apply to all imports (with some exceptions), rather than being focused on imports from particular countries. They impose duties when imports exceed a level reflecting traditional trading patterns.
  • Ahead of the expiry of the safeguard measure, interested parties are able to apply for the TRA to conduct new trade remedies investigations, looking at specific steel products from certain countries that may either be dumping goods into the UK or subsidising those steel products which could cause injury to UK producers.