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Steel Exports

Volume 709: debated on Thursday 3 March 2022

My Department recently published our refreshed export strategy, which has an action-led 12-point plan, and we have introduced a whole range of support measures, as the Under-Secretary of State for International Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) has just set out, to help exporters to thrive in the global market, including, of course, our high-quality steel, internationalising key trading sectors and raising the UK exporting culture across the UK for the long term.

We can learn from the United States, of course, where the Made in America Act 2021 and informal targets in Government contracts support US steelmakers. The UK Government have told me that the World Trade Organisation does not allow them to do that, but the US example shows that that is not true. Will the Secretary of State tell her colleagues across Government that we can help boost steel exports if the UK Government give a big vote of confidence to our steel industry and start to make, buy and sell more in Britain?

UK steel exports across the world are worth nearly £4 billion. As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are in very detailed talks to ensure that our UK to US steel exports get back on track and to clear out the issues caused by the section 232 tariffs over the past couple of years. We and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy continue to work with the steel industry to ensure that what is some of the world’s best steel, made across our UK steel yards, will continue to find new markets. We work not only with the US but with all our likeminded allies in the WTO against those market-distorting practices that some nations choose to use, which continue to degrade and devalue the high-quality steel made in the UK. We continue to work very closely with the industry but also with those across the world who want to make sure that the steel market works as it should.

Expanding on that question, could my right hon. Friend explain what progress she is making on resolving the section 232 tariff issues regarding exporting steel to the United States?

In 2018, the US imposed section 232 tariffs on global imports of steel and aluminium—a defensive reaction at the time to overcapacity in the global steel market and for its own national security purposes. I was able to get the negotiations back on track. My counterpart Secretary Raimondo and I started negotiations to resolve this issue in mid-January. The negotiations are proceeding at pace. Our officials are working flat out to clear through some of the issues, and we hope very much to be able to bring good announcements here in due course.

I thank the Secretary of State for her clear commitment to helping the steel sector. In 2021, the UK’s export levels of steel decreased by around £53 million of GDP compared with the previous year. What steps has the Secretary of State taken to ensure that there are no further decreases in 2022 and that small steel businesses, which I have in my constituency, and larger manufacturers are supported in this very uncertain period?

The hon. Gentleman is right. As post-covid markets and industrial sites pick up, the demand for steel across the world is growing at pace. We want to make sure that the high-quality steel that we make across the UK finds the right markets. On my travels in my role, I speak regularly to those across the world who are doing complex infrastructure work where our high-quality steel products will be an important part of their procurement programmes. We are making good progress. As I say, I work very closely with the BEIS Secretary to ensure that we give the steel industry all the support that it needs.