EU implements further stainless steel import protection as Asian capacity grows

14th October 2020

The increasing dominance of stainless steel production by the Asian continent is not going unnoticed by the European mills. Low production costs and local raw material resources have attracted investments in new facilities in several Asian countries, highlighted by the rapid expansion of stainless steel flat product manufacturing in China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The growth of demand in the Asian region is not increasing at the same rate as output, leaving excess material, which is being targeted towards overseas markets. However, export opportunities are increasingly limited as stainless steel mills worldwide call for further import protection measures. This is particularly the case in Europe, where both demand and production remain below pre-pandemic levels.

Definitive measures announced for HR products

Despite the introduction of the European Commission safeguard measures, in 2018, many domestic steelmakers believe that the regional market remains oversupplied for current levels of demand, and that more measures are required to prevent further injury to the local stainless steel industry.

As a result of these concerns, in August 2019, the European Commission commenced an antidumping investigation into stainless hot rolled coils and sheets originating from China, Taiwan and Indonesia. Provisional duties were introduced in April 2020, and on October 7, the EC concluded the investigation and imposed definitive antidumping duties of between 4.1 percent and 19.0 percent.

During the investigation period, stainless hot rolled coil and sheet imports into Europe declined, as buyers became increasingly cautious about the risks associated with incurring the final duties. Only 18 percent of the quota was utilised for the July/September 2020 period.

Spotlight turns to cold rolled

With the importing of stainless hot rolled into Europe becoming increasingly difficult, many buyers have turned to purchasing stainless cold rolled material instead. The tariff-free quota allowances for India, Turkey, Vietnam and ‘all other’ countries were fully utilised during the July/September period. Moreover, less than 15 percent of the South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia volumes were still available.

This led to a build-up of material held in storage at European ports, as buyers waited for the October quota allowance renewal, to avoid the 25 percent tariff charge. During the first few days of the new quota opening, approximately 19,000 tonnes of stainless cold rolled sheets and strips were allocated under the ‘all other’ country code – leaving only 42 percent of the allowance for these nations in the remainder of this quarter.

Nonetheless, European stainless steelmakers continue to request further protection from third country material. In September, the European Commission initiated an antidumping investigation into imports of stainless cold rolled sheet and strip originating from India and Indonesia. The investigation will review imports from these countries between July 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020. It is expected that the probe will find that these imports are causing injury to the EU’s stainless steel industry, and that antidumping duties are, therefore, inevitable. It is likely that provisional duties will be announced in the near term.

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