UK Sanctions on Cheap Steel Imports From China Are Under Review

By Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan Jung
Bryan S. Jung is a native and resident of New York City with a background in politics and the legal industry. He graduated from Binghamton University.
January 25, 2022Updated: January 26, 2022

The UK Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) announced on Jan. 25 that it has initiated a review into whether Britain should drop anti-dumping sanctions against steel producers from China.

The new post-Brexit trade agency is set to investigate whether the imports of cheap heavy steel plate from China did harm to UK industry, and whether it would cause harm if the import duties were no longer applied.

It is reviewing tariffs applied throughout 2021 on a series of non-alloy and alloy steel products made in China, excluding stainless steel, silicon-electrical steel, tool steel, and high-speed steel.

The steel in question is typically used in the “manufacture of construction, mining and logging equipment, in oil and gas pipelines, and for shipbuilding and construction of bridges and buildings,” said the TRA.

The period of investigation for the review is Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2021, with the entire injury period being Jan. 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2021, according to the TRA.

The steel tariffs were first put in place in 2016, when the UK was a member of the European Union, following a decision by the European Commission (EC), with duties ranging as high as 73.7 percent.

The EC’s investigation confirmed that the Chinese products had been sold in EU member states at “heavily dumped prices.”

The dumping of cheap steel imports from communist China at the time put UK-based producers under pressure, but the measures failed to prevent damage within the domestic steel industry.

British authorities maintained the anti-dumping measures following the UK’s exit from the EU in 2020.

Since then, British Steel fell into administration and was bought by Jingye, a Chinese steel company, in late 2019, three years after the first tariffs were put into place.

The TRA last year took over the review from the Department for International Trade, which inherited it after Brexit.

The trade agency said it had “initiated a transition review of an anti-dumping measure on heavy steel plate from China to determine if the measure is fit for purpose in the UK.”

The steel tariffs are one of 44 trade measures carried over into UK law from Britain’s time in the EU bloc, and the TRA said it would review the dozens of other trade measures carried over from the era.

“This measure is one of a number which the UK transitioned from the EU system—the TRA is reviewing them to make sure they are still suitable for the UK’s needs,” said the agency.

The TRA said that it would “decide whether duties are still needed to offset dumping of these imports in the UK,” adding that its job was “to make sure [sanctions] are still suitable” for the UK.

These measures and actions were carried out by the European Commission on the country’s behalf before Brexit.

The trade authority said that it could put anti-dumping tariffs on goods being imported to Britain that were cheaper than the domestic market price.

The TRA could act if imported goods were being subsidized, or if it wished to avert floods of excessive imports, which is allowable under World Trade Organization rules.

Meanwhile, the review comes as the UK and U.S. governments recently began formal negotiations to remove U.S. tariffs on imports of British steel.

The U.S. steel tariffs had reduced UK steel exports to the United States by nearly 50 percent.

“We hope the UK government can put its new independent trade powers to full use, building on the terms of the EU’s deal and delivering the best possible outcome for UK producers,” said UK Steel, a trade body, on Jan. 19.

The White House had reached an agreement in October 2021 to allow a limited amount of EU-made steel into the United States duty-free.

The Trump administration, in 2018, imposed 25 percent tariffs on foreign steel imports, irking allies in Europe and in the UK, amid its trade war with China.

The EU implemented retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey and other products, which have now been reduced.

Businesses affected by trade with China are being asked by the TRA to contribute to the review by registering on the agency’s online case platform.