Commenting on confirmation from Donald Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross that 25% tariffs are to be placed on British steel imports to the USA – commencing 1st June 2018 – Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, home of the Port Talbot steelworks, said:
“President Trump’s scatter-gun decision to impose steel tariffs on his country’s closest allies is a major setback for the the British steel industry, and the global economy.
“Trump’s tariffs show how out of touch he is. These tariffs are justified on the grounds of national security, yet are set to hit us – historically America’s closest political, military, intelligence and security partner and a key NATO ally – as hard as they will hit adversaries and dumpers like China.
“These tariffs will be utterly self-defeating for America. George Bush introduced similar tariffs than these back in 2002 and it cost over 200,000 US jobs. Further still, most of America’s UK steel imports are the types of cutting edge steel that the US lack the capability and capacity to produce.
“Around 15% of UK steel imports are to the US and our government’s appalling failure to defend the interests of British steelworkers has been evident for all to see. Since Trump first announced the tariffs the British steel industry, unions and steel MPs have been calling on Theresa May to make the case against for a UK exemption. Almost three months on it is clear that she has fallen spectacularly short of her responsibilities.
“When exceptions were touted for Canada, Mexico and Australia the UK wasn’t even in the conversation. Theresa May might be willing to hold hands with Donald Trump, but what use is a ‘special relationship’ if our Prime Minister cannot influence the President over critical issues such as the future of British steel.
“The EU appears to be taking a bold approach with talk of fighting back with its own tariffs while the UK government has been weak and isolated. What this scenario tells us is that we must work closely with our European neighbours post-Brexit to ensure we are not ripe for American bullying, or indeed Chinese dumping. An EEA Brexit will help strengthen our position.
“The Prime Minister must make sure that we will have a rigorous anti-dumping regime in place to protect us from the increased threat of illegal Chinese dumping after we have left the EU. That means listening to cross-party calls for to fix the Trade and Customs Bill currently going through Parliament.
“The only way that we will effectively combat Chinese overproduction and illegal dumping of steel is through coordinated international action. World Leaders should be working together to bring a case against China at the WTO, not imposing indiscriminate, scatter-gun tariffs that hit key allies as well as bad actors like the Chinese.
“Domestically, Theresa May must now listen to the UK Steel sector and get behind the Steel Sector Deal by cutting our uncompetitive energy prices, because doing so would mean increased production, investment and jobs in the British steel industry.”