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Section 232 Tariffs

Volume 638: debated on Thursday 29 March 2018

7. What assurances he has received from his counterparts in the US Administration that the section 232 tariffs imposed by that country on steel and aluminium imports will not apply to UK exports. (904662)

Although we welcome the United States granting an EU-wide exemption from the tariffs applied under section 232 for a limited time period, we continue to argue that this is not an appropriate mechanism to deal with justifiable concerns in relation to the overcapacity of steel worldwide.

Some 15% of UK steel goes to America, and, quite frankly, a pause on the imposition of tariffs is simply not good enough. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to make sure that that pause becomes permanent?

We are working with the European Union to ensure a permanent exemption, and I spoke to Commissioner Malmström yesterday. On the specific case of the United Kingdom, the UK is responsible for only 1% of American steel imports. Much of that is high quality steel, which the United States does not manufacture itself. Some of our steel goes to American defence projects, which means that it would be quite absurd to exclude the United Kingdom, or to apply tariffs to the United Kingdom, on the basis of national security.

13. I welcome the assurance that section 232 tariffs will not apply to UK exports, but, ultimately, any tariffs will have a significant impact on prices here and could have a knock-on effect on those working in the steel industry, including in Tata Steel at Port Talbot, which neighbours my constituency. If those tariffs are implemented, what additional support will the Government provide for the industry to help deal with the damaging tariffs imposed on workers? (904669)

The hon. Gentleman is right: there will be a knock-on price effect and there is also likely to be a displacement effect in the global steel market, for which we may have to look at imposing safeguard measures; along with the European Union, we would do so. He is also right that there would be a knock-on price effect in the United States, too. It does not make any sense to protect 140,000 steel jobs in the United States and see prices rise for the 6.5 million US workers who are dependent on steel.

I thank the Secretary of State for meeting steel MPs this week. Will he say a bit more about the safeguards that he will try to ensure are in place against diversionary dumping as a result of this action by the United States?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. As he knows, our aim, along with our European Union partners, is for the tariffs not to be applied in the first place. We argue that section 232 is not an appropriate means of doing so. If we want to deal with the over- production of steel—particularly Chinese overproduction —the best way to do so is through the G7 steel forum, where there are 28 outstanding recommendations to which we are still awaiting a Chinese response.

UK steel faces a very real threat from dumping as a result of these US tariffs, but the Conservatives in the European Parliament led the group of MEPs that consistently blocked EU action against dumping. As the Manufacturing Trade Remedies Alliance says, in the Trade Bill—which has mysteriously disappeared—the Secretary of State is proposing the weakest trade remedies system in the world. It is simply not good enough. When is he going to stand up for the UK steel industry and for UK steel jobs?

It is hard to know where to start when there are so many wrong facts in a single question. Let us leave aside the European Parliament. It was the Labour party in this Parliament that voted against the customs Bill and the Trade Bill, stopping us creating a trade remedies authority in the first place. The Trade Bill itself only sets up the trade remedies authority; it does not set up the regime.

Order. We are running late, but I am not having Cleethorpes and Redditch missing out. I call Martin Vickers.