The EU’s Safeguard Measures for steel were initiated in July 2018 in response to the United States applying a 25% tariff on steel imports originating from 3rd countries, including the European Union. The aim of the Measures is to manage the volume of steel entering the EU Single Market from 3rd countries as a consequent of the threat of EU market distortion by the dumping of steel originally intended for the US market onto the EU market as a result of the original US tariffs. The Measures currently in place allow for the importation of steel from 3rd countries by way of quotas, determined in line with traditional volumes of trade in steel. These current measures are due to expire at the end of June 2021, unless prolonged after a further review which is currently underway.
Due to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, as of 1 January 2021, the UK is no longer party to the EU’s Measures and the UK is now a 3rd country in relation to the application of the EU’s Safeguard Measures. In anticipation of the UK’s new status outside of the EU, in September 2020, the UK Government issued a notice stating that it would establish its own set of Safeguard Measures and calculated its own quota levels for imports of steel products from 3rd countries, including the EU into the UK.
Irish importers can continue to import steel from the UK without the additional "Safeguard" tariff of 25% if the volume of imports remains within the EU's quota allocations for the UK. Imports from the UK to Ireland, or other EU Member States, in excess of these quotas will attract a 25% tariff. Similarly, imports of steel from other 3rd countries into Ireland would only be subject to a 25% tariff if the exporting country exceeds the available quota. Importantly, however, Irish importers can continue to import steel from the rest of the EU as part of the Single Market where no tariffs or quotas apply.
In applying the Safeguard Measures, the European Commission has completed 2 reviews of the Measures, with the most recent review published in June 2020. The findings of that review included details on the availability of quotas for each product category. The Commission's review found that in the last quarter of year-2 of the measures (i.e. April - June 2020), a significant level of quotas remained unused, with quotas available in every product category.
The review also noted that as of 15 May 2020, there were 9 million tonnes, or 29% of the total quotas, available for use in year-2 of the Measures ('year-3' of the Measures began in July 2020). This would indicate that the application of the EU's Safeguard Measures does not affect the availability of supply, as quotas are not exhausted before the end of a given period. Quotas available for steel reflect traditional levels of trade in steel and the Commission's evidence suggests that the quotas are not being exhausted and that the market remains competitive.
Furthermore, neither my Department, nor any of our Enterprise Agencies, is aware of any supply concerns by industry regarding imports of steel into Ireland, however officials within the Department are engaged with industry groups to monitor any unforeseen impacts of the current measures.
Finally, it is my understanding that the Commission are examining possible amendments to Union legislation on tariff rate quotas to resolve issues relating to steel from Great Britain imported into Northern Ireland coming within the scope of the current Safeguard Measures. Officials in my Department will continue to monitor the situation and they remain actively engaged with the Commission on the matter including the interplay between the Measures and the Northern Ireland Protocol with the view of finalising how measures should operate and apply in respect of Northern Ireland.