June 30, 2020 / 2:50 PM / a month ago

EU rejects calls by steel industry to cut import quotas

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union made only modest changes to its measures to protect the steel sector on Tuesday, sparking an angry response from an industry that had called for reduced import quotas to head off a potential glut of inflows.

FILE PHOTO: A steel worker of Germany's industrial conglomerate ThyssenKrupp AG works near a blast furnace at Germany's largest steel factory in Duisburg, Germany, January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

The EU put in place safeguard measures in 2018 to guard against shipments redirected to Europe after Washington’s imposition of 25% steel tariffs closed the U.S. market to many exporters.

A filing in the EU’s official journal on Tuesday acknowledged the industry had been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, but said there was no need for drastic changes partly because current quotas were not being fully used.

An angry joint statement by producers and a trade union called for an emergency meeting with EU policymakers.

“This is the worst crisis we have seen in decades and... this may risk thousands of jobs,” Luis Colunga, deputy general secretary of IndustriAll Europe trade union, said.

EU steel demand has dropped by around 50% since March, forcing many furnaces to temporarily close, the statement said.

“The tariff-free import quota has been further raised. Objectively, this makes no sense,” said Axel Eggert, director general of producers group Eurofer.

Under the safeguards, quotas for 26 grades of steel, including stainless, were set in 2018 at the average of imports in 2015-2017 plus 5%. Imports beyond the quotas are subject to a 25% duty.

The EU said on Tuesday quotas would go up during the 12 months from July 1 by 3%, the same increase as last year.

As of May 15, some 9 million tonnes or 29% of the quotas for the previous 12 months had not been used, the EU filing said.

To guard against a surge of imports, the EU said it was changing to a quarterly system from the current annual allocation and imposed some restrictions on individual countries.

Eurofer members include top global producer ArcelorMittal, Tata Steel, ThyssenKrupp and Salzgitter.

Reporting by Eric Onstad; editing by Barbara Lewis

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