Concerns over steel trade war after US tariffs imposed - but direct impact on Scunthorpe 'minimal'

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 8 Jun 2018

Concerns have been raised about a trade war over steel after new tariffs were imposed on metal imports to the USA by President Donald Trump.

But Scunthorpe MP Nic Dakin has said he believes the impact on the town's British Steel works will be minimal.

And bosses at the company have said while disappointed by the measure, they look forward to continuing to supply American customers and a growing global customer base.

Tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium imports to the US from the European Union, Canada and Mexico have now come into force, with EU leaders saying it would respond in a "firm and proportionate manner".

The move has led to fears of a destabilisation of the global steel market, although Mr Dakin said he thought there would be little direct impact on the Scunthorpe works.

He told BBC Radio Humberside: "It's the firing gun of a trade war between the US and Europe, which is very bad news for world trade.

"In terms of direct impact of this on the steelworks in Scunthorpe, I expect it's quite minimal. A very small percentage of steel exported from here goes to the US, however, the bigger impact is the destabilisation of the global steel market and the impact that might have on steelmakers like British Steel.

"I don't think this measure in itself will have a direct impact on the Scunthorpe works but the indirect impact could be very large in terms of destabilising the global steel market.

"Thank goodness we're in the European Union at the moment and we're seeing leadership from the European Union in fighting back against the bully boy President Trump because quite frankly, the UK Government has been almost invisible in this debate with the US."


Manufacturing at British Steel (Image: British Steel)

Reassuring the workforce locally, Mr Dakin said: "What we've got is a very resilient workforce in a very resilient community here in Scunthorpe.

READ MORE: British Steel The Movie: Watch the full stunning film for a never-before-seen insight into the company

"British Steel took over the ownership of the works two years ago and they have done an extremely good job thanks to the hard work and skill of the workforce.

"That hard work and skill will continue to mean some of the best steel in the world is made here.

"This is bad news but it is not disastrous."

A British Steel spokesman said: "US sales represent a small percentage of our exports and while disappointed by the announcement, we look forward to continuing to supply unique and high quality products to our valued American customers and growing global customer base.

"Tariffs will impact on the world market so we’ll continue working directly with the UK Government, and UK Steel, on this matter and to ensure Britain and Europe don’t again become dumping grounds for cheap steel."

Paul McBean, chairman of the Scunthorpe works multi-union committee, warned of a domino effect which could come from President Trump's action.

He told the BBC: "The idea of nations trading together, it should be a fair trade between nations - not subsidised, a fair trade.

"While that's going ahead and it's all fair, everything works smoothly but all it takes is one nation, especially one like America, to do what they have done and the domino effect will be just catastrophic."

Nationally, trade unions said the measure could threaten jobs and would not address the problem of steel dumping.

READ MORE: Labour frontbench members meet British Steel workers in Scunthorpe

Roy Rickhuss, general secretary of the Community union, said: "Steelworkers on both sides of the Atlantic have been let down by their governments.

"Theresa May talks of a special relationship, but has completely failed to secure any sort of exemption from these tariffs which now threaten British jobs. Meanwhile Donald Trump may well do more harm than good to American manufacturing if a global trade war escalates.


Roy Rickhuss, Community's general secretary

"Trade unions across the world must stand together in opposition to these measures. The problems of steel dumping will not be solved by unfair tariffs, and steelworkers in the UK and USA must not fall into the trap of believing rhetoric from the likes of Donald Trump.

"Community has been campaigning against these tariffs from day one, and will continue to push government and industry at the highest levels to protect the UK’s steel industry, and the highly skilled men and women working within in.

READ MORE: Multi-million-pound investment at British Steel in Scunthorpe to step up production of revolutionary rails

"The UK Government must support EU safeguards to protect our industry and ensure more dumped steel does not end up on European shores."

Tony Brady, Unite national officer, said: "US steel tariffs are a blunt short sighted instrument that will do nothing to address the underlying problem of global over capacity and the secondary dumping of steel from countries, such as China and Indonesia.


US President Donald Trump has introduced new tariffs on steel imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico (Image: PA Images)

"Those countries that have been dumping steel and aluminium are the villains, not countries, such as the UK or Canada which play by the rules.

"The fact the UK government has failed to secure any prospect of an exemption for UK steel from the US administration should be an eye opener for those who pin their hopes on the 'special relationship' delivering a boost for British industry in a post-Brexit world.

"A tit for tat trade war is in no one’s interest. Steel tariffs will only serve to harm manufacturing and steel making communities.

"We recognise that the global problem needs a global solution. UK ministers must engage fully with the European Union and play a leading role in securing a negotiated solution to the global overcapacity of steel before it escalates into a wider trade war."



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