EU Hits Beijing with Steel Tariffs

EU Hits Beijing with Steel Tariffs

The European Union has imposed tariffs as high as 66.4% on steel products from China as part of a crackdown on alleged dumping by Chinese exporters of steel wheels for vehicles, including cars, tractors and trailers. 

Chinese manufacturers like Zhejiang Jingu Co. and Xingmin Intelligent Transportation Systems Co. were singled out by the move. 

According to the Commission, dumped imports of steel road wheels from Chinese manufacturers caused “material injury” to EU-based manufacturers, with the new anti-dumping duties a preliminary move in response to a probe that opened in February. The investigation came off the back of a complaint lodged by the Association of European Wheel Manufacturers.

There are currently 11 manufacturers of steel road wheels in the EU, but the Commission declined to identify any of them. European producers reportedly requested anonymity “on grounds of a fear of retaliatory measures by some of their customers,” said the Commission.

The European market for steel road wheels is worth an estimated 800 million euros, or 881 million dollars. The industry employs 3,600 people at present, based mainly in Germany, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, Italy, Romania and Poland. Meanwhile, Chinese exporters’ combined share of the European market doubled to 5.3% last year from 2015. 

The levies, effective since last Friday, will be in place for six months. They may be extended for five years thereafter. The rates are 50.3% against 19 named Chinese exporters, including Zhejiang Jingu and Xingmin Intelligent Transportation Systems, and 66.4% for all other producers.

On the same day as the tariff ruling, longstanding tensions with China over the steel trade were pushed even further after the Commission opened an inquiry into whether Chinese manufacturers of hot-rolled, stainless-steel sheets and coils are recipients of market-distorting aid from Beijing. 

The probe is due to last as long as 13 months, and could result in EU anti-subsidy duties on imports of steel sheet and coil products. Anti-dumping and anti-subsidy levies are already in place against a range of other Chinese products, with an emphasis on the industrial and chemical industries. 

The stainless steel industry is a site of ongoing strife for trade relations between the EU and China. In July, Beijing announced it would hit EU steel producers with duties of 18.1% to 103.1% on stainless steel billets and hot-rolled stainless steel plates. The duties followed a probe by Chinese regulators that showed “there was dumping of the investigated products and it has caused substantive damage to the industry in China,” according to China’s Ministry of Commerce.

The European Commission is the European body responsible for investigating dumping claims and imposing measures, and typically opens a probe after receiving a complaint from European producers. 

Anti-dumping measures are put in place if the investigation finds the following: dumping by producers in the country/countries concerned, the relevant European industry suffers “material injury,” there is a causal link between dumping and injury, and assurance that anti-dumping measures are not against the European interest.

Joanna Eva is a London-based analyst and contributor with a range of clients in the risk consulting industry. She specializes in Asian political and economic analysis, having lived and travelled extensively in the region for close to a decade. She holds a Master of Law from the University of New South Wales and received her Bachelor of International Studies from the University of Sydney. She is proficient in English and Mandarin Chinese.

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