The EU, including the UK, and six other countries have secured an exemption against punitive steel and aluminium tariffs on imports to the US.
First announced by the Trump Administration earlier this month, the tariffs are to be levied at a rate of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium imports – a move that Unite said could devastate the UK steel sector.
But in the eleventh hour, the Trump administration announced that the EU as well as Canada, Mexico, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and South Korea would be granted a temporary exemption until May 1 from the tariffs that went into effect today (March 23).
Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the exemption and is now in talks with other EU leaders over plans to seek a permanent exemption.
Unite national officer for steel Tony Brady also welcomed the temporary reprieve from punishing tariffs, saying it was “good news in the short term for UK steelworkers and their families, but we are far from out of the woods.
“We still need to secure long lasting exemptions to lift the cloud of uncertainty from UK steel makers and steelworkers, in addition to addressing global capacity,” he warned.
“We cannot have a situation where UK steel is exempt from US tariffs while steel bound for American markets from other countries is diverted and dumped on the UK.”
The Trump tariffs will still be applied to all other countries which were not given an exemption yesterday, including China, which has said it would impose its own retaliatory tariffs, sparking fears of a global trade war between the world’s two biggest economies.
The threat of tariffs came just as the UK steel industry has made a slow but steady comeback following a crisis in 2015 that saw thousands of job losses as well as factory shutdowns amid a global glut of steel spurred by Chinese dumping of cheap exports.
Brady said now the “UK government must work with the European Union and press the Trump administration for a long lasting solution that doesn’t destroy jobs and manufacturing communities.”
Meanwhile, Bombardier workers also received good news today (March 23) over their fight against Trump administration tariffs.
US-based aerospace firm Boeing announced it would not appeal an earlier decision from a US trade body that dropped tariffs of US imports of the Bombardier C-Series jet – tariffs that would have threatened thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland where the aircraft’s wings are manufactured.
Unite celebrated the US International Trade Commission’s (USITC) final ruling in January rejecting a complaint from Boeing that Bombardier had benefited from illegal subsidies from the UK and Canadian governments.
No Boeing appeal
Fears still remained that the ruling could be appealed by Boeing, but now that the company has said it will not pursue an appeal, the chances of tariffs being imposed on the Bombardier C-Series are virtually zero.
“Today’s announcement by Boeing that it will not appeal last month’s decision by the US International Trade Commission makes very unlikely any prospect that President Trump would intervene directly to overturn the decision – as he has in other recent cases,” said Unite regional secretary Jackie Pollock. “This was our one major concern arising from the decision.”
“In effect this means that we have seen off the Boeing-inspired threat to Bombardier jobs from the imposition of punitive US protectionist tariffs on the company’s C Series aircraft,” he added. “This will come as very welcome news to the entire workforce at Bombardier in Northern Ireland.”
“The focus for Unite is now to defend the jobs we have against the threat of outsourcing while proactively making the case for more work to be brought back to Northern Ireland,” Pollock went on to say. “The C Series has the potential to transform the civic aviation world and the aircraft series is a world leader in many areas – not least fuel economy and its design features. Today’s announcement means that the runway is clear for its take-off.”
Pollock highlighted the role that the Northern Ireland workforce played in raising the international profile of the trade dispute and its potential effects on the Northern Ireland economy.
He said that there now is a “legitimate expectation among the workforce that we must see many more jobs coming to Northern Ireland from future success.”