Britain’s steel industry thrown into crisis
Britain’s steelmakers are beginning to feel the impact of the US imposing import duties, putting the struggling sector in danger of plunging back into crisis unless the EU breaks protocol and acts immediately.
President Donald Trump announced an immediate 25 per cent import duty on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium as he fulfilled a campaign pledge which he claimed would protect US industrial workers. Prior to the levies being slapped on imports, trade body UK Steel had already received reports of members having orders from US customers delayed as they waited to see if Mr Trump would go ahead with the tariffs.
The UK exports about 350,000 tonnes of steel to the US a year, about 7 per cent of Britain’s annual production. Much of it is high value and speciality steel products, with an average price of €1,400 a tonne. The average price for hot-rolled coil steel, one of the benchmark types of steel, is about €600 per tonne. Five of Britain’s big six steel companies – British Steel, Tata, Liberty, Sheffield Forgemasters and Outokumpu – export to the US, along with many of the UK’s smaller operations, which focus on more complex steel products.
While US steel companies could invest in the facilities to be able to produce the items, this would come at a cost and take time. Prices are likely to rise as steel companies pass on capital expenditure costs to customers, who in the meantime will have to pay higher prices on imported steel. The fear among UK and EU steelmakers is that with the US effectively shut to international steel companies, major steel producing nations will flood other markets with excess production.