Commenting on reports that the EU is set to secure a temporary exemption from the Trump steel tariffs, Member of Parliament for Aberavon, home of the Port Talbot steelworks, Stephen Kinnock, said:
“Steelworkers across the UK and Europe will sigh with relief if it is confirmed that the EU have secured a temporary exemption from the Trump tariffs, but we are by no means out of the woods yet.
“The EU and UK government must now redouble their efforts to secure a permanent exemption from the scattergun Trump tariffs. A temporary exemption is a sticking plaster, when what we need is a cure.
“If it is confirmed that we have secured a temporary exemption, we will still face the danger of increased Chinese dumping in the UK and EU as a secondary impact of Trump’s tariffs. Up to 25 million tones of potentially displaced dumped steel – set against a backdrop of 7.5million tones being produced here in the UK – could end up on the UK and EU market as a secondary impact of the Trump Tariffs, which is why we must see robust safeguarding measures introduced to protect steelworkers from potentially increased levels of dumped steel entering our markets.
“We also must use this as an opportunity to work with international partners to make a concerted attack on illegal steel dumping, particularly from China, which has been the primary cause of the challenges facing the global steel industry.
“This tariff crisis must also spur the British on to approve the Steel Sector deal, a plan supported by the steel industry, workforce and unions, to invest in jobs, output and training, which they’ve ignored for over half a year. Now is the time for the government to match their warm words for the steel industry with action. “Last week our do-nothing Trade Secretary flew out to America only to come back empty handed. What today’s reports makes clear is that he should have flown out to Brussels to work on a plan with our European partners for securing an exemption.
“The spectacle of Fox jetting off to Washington at great taxpayers expense, while neglecting our negotiating power through Brussels, goes to show that his Brexit fantasy is just that: a fantasy. The Brextremists have claimed the EU is slow and ineffective, but today’s news shows how wrong they are.
“It is only because of the collective leverage of the EU that we will be able to secure this temporary exemption, and so the clear and present dangers to steel communities up and down the country of the kind of isolationist hard Brexit that Mr Fox and the Prime Minister have championed is beyond doubt.
“This is why we need a common sense Brexit, one based on membership of the EEA with a customs addition. That is the only kind of deal that would allow us to stand alongside our European partners; taking advantage of the increased leverage we’d have as part of the worlds largest trading block, to force Trumps hand.
“Of course we must see the details of this reported EU exemption, but above all, we must see it turned into a permanent exemption, not only for our sake, but that of America as well. In 2002 Bush introduced similar but smaller tariffs, and it cost 200,000 American jobs – that is more than were employed in the entire US steel industry at the time.
“Since 2015, Labour MPs have raised the concerns of steelworkers over 700 times in the House of Commons, and the government have done nothing. That has to end, and a start would be to give the go ahead to the Steel Sector Deal.
“For over 6 months now, the government have let the Steel Sector Deal gather dust on a shelf. The Sector Deal, supported by the industry and Unions, would increase investment, production, jobs and training opportunities for our steel industry, if only the government would do something to bring down energy prices for the steel industry.
“We are right to celebrate a temporary exemption when it is confirmed as a step in the right direction, but we must remember that we are not out of the woods yet.”